Motebang said the “Momo Challenge” appears as a scary image on online platforms with requests for the user to contact “Momo” on WhatsApp through one of several contact numbers. Picture: AP

Johannesburg - The Film and Publication Board (FPB) on Thursday urged parents to be vigilant and closely monitor their children’s online activities, especially games downloaded on various App stores or from other online sources.

“It has come to our attention that the game, “Momo Challenge” is a form of cyber bullying targeting young children. It encourages self-harm and may even lead to suicide,” said FPB’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Maria Motebang.

Motebang said the “Momo Challenge” appears as a scary image on online platforms with requests for the user to contact “Momo” on WhatsApp through one of several contact numbers.  Reports claim that the character instructs children to complete challenges that they must keep secret or “Momo” will kill them.

“Our FPB online monitors conducted a search on legitimate and known App stores and were unable to find reference to the game.  However, there is a possibility that the game may be shared on a peer-to-peer basis. 

"Parents and guardians are therefore urged to monitor their children’s devices and report such content on the FPB hotline number 0800 148 148 or www.fpbhotline.org.za .

"Even though there are no confirmed incidents in South Africa, we urge parents to download monitoring Apps on their device to monitor your child’s online activities and can be set to alert you when your child logs on to an App," said Motebang.

Motebang said it also allows parents to set limits to how much time they can spend online using their devices, and when the child tries to download an App it alerts parents. It also allows parents to grant permission for their children to download an App.

"Always supervise your children when they are online and get to know the games they play or videos they access on platforms such as YouTube. Be aware that the internet does not only offer fun activities, there are also criminal activities. Teach children not to share personal information and to ensure their privacy settings are always on," said Motebang.

Motebang asked parents to assist their children to identify activities or people that make them feel uncomfortable and to report such activities immediately to their parents. They should also be taught to block any person who bullies them and to report it to an adult.

"Ensure that the devices they have access to are restricted to age suitable content. Many social networks require users to be 13 years or older.  If your children have social media accounts, ensure that you check their privacy settings and who they interact with.

"We urge parents to ensure that they adhere to age restrictions as assigned by the FPB.  Age appropriate content goes a long way towards protecting your young ones from premature exposure to content that causes them psychological and developmental harm,” said Motebang.

African News Agency (ANA)