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What parents need to know about 'Momo Challenge'

Technology expert, law enforcement warn of viral social media game

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Law enforcement agencies across the country are warning parents about a viral social media game called the  "Momo Challenge."

According to reports, under the "Momo" alias, children are being manipulated into sharing information or completing various tasks through WhatsApp and if the tasks aren't completed, the children are being blackmailed.

"The 'Momo Challenge' is really just another form of cyberbullying or manipulation," said technology expert Christopher Hamer.

Hamer compared the new challenge to the "Blue Whale Challenge," which is similar in that it asks players to commit suicide as the final task. 

The "Momo Challenge" targets teenagers on WhatsApp, trying to convince them to contact the "Momo" character on their cellphones. If they refuse to complete the challenge, threats and pictures are sent in response. 

On Thursday, News4Jax asked several parents if they had heard about the challenge. Most had not. 

"I never heard of it before today, but I'll be asking when I see him later on," said one mother, who wished to remain unnamed. 

Chris Baggett said he does not allow his 11-year-old to use a cellphone. 

"I let her do kids mode on an iPad, but I control all the apps," he said.

According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, its Intelligence Unit has seen some talk about the game making the rounds on the web, but we have not had reported incidents in St. Johns County.

RELATED: Warning: New online ‘challenge' urges teens to commit suicide

Although there haven't been any reports of death related to the "Momo Challenge" in the United States, that does not mean parents shouldn't be on alert.

Hamer said the main things parents need to do are:

  • Track your child's internet usage.
  • Get apps that limit your child's access to certain features.
  • Keep an open line of communication with your child.
  • "There are many different applications out there. The technology can be just as much as a help as it can be a harm," Hamer said. "I have a program I use called 'Qustodio' and I use it for all of my children. It has various levels of control, from completely locking them down to simply allowing you to monitor what’s going on."

    Right now, law enforcement officials don't know who's behind "Momo."

    In a statement to Fox News, WhatsApp recommended users block Momo's contact and report it to WhatsApp.

    Parents, if you hear your children talking about the "Momo Challenge," Hamer advises you to talk with them about the dangers and report anything suspicious to law enforcement.

    RESOURCES: How to get help for someone who might be suicidal

    If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, there are ways to help. Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress.