An Apple iPhone.
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Calgary school boards are warning parents about a supposed viral social media challenge called the ‘Momo Challenge’ in which a disturbing character reportedly encourages children and youth to perform dangerous tasks, violent attacks and even suicide.The challenge has purportedly appeared on popular social media networks, such as Facebook, Youtube and WhatsApp, and in the middle of popular children’s shows and games such as Fortnite.It is not clear whether the challenge is real or a hoax, nevertheless concern is mounting.On Thursday, the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District sent letters to parents making them aware of the online trend.The CBE mentioned the uncertainty surrounding its presence, writing “the ‘Momo Challenge’ appears to be a hoax” and “conflicting information about the topic can be (found) online.”Both boards encouraged parents to speak with their children and ensure they are exercising safe online practices.“We encourage you to continue to be vigilant in monitoring your child’s social media activity and remind them of potential online dangers,” read the Catholic school board’s letter.Similarly, the CBE wrote, “You may want to read more about what this is, and have a conversation with your child in the context of what is in the best interest of your family to ensure they are safe when they are online.”The Calgary Police Service has not received any reports of incidents in relation to the Momo Challenge.However, they always encourage safe online practices for parents and kids. In a statement, police offered a list of recommendations and information to consider:Parents should be involved in their child’s internet experience. It is very easy for strangers to create fake accounts and to pretend to be someone else online. Predators visit sites where kids meet to talk about problems and can take advantage of or manipulate kids, who can be vulnerable or easily influenced. You should only be friends online with people you actually know. Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, or off, it usually is. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, alert an adult or an administrator on the platform. Never follow directions from a stranger online. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The Momo Challenge first gained attention in 2018.“Momo didn’t make too many waves when it was first mentioned,” said Felicia Zuniga, a spokeswoman for the Catholic school district. “With the current, increased media attention and viral nature happening now, we wanted to take a proactive approach in bringing this to the attention of our parents and school communities.”Zuniga said they regularly err on the side of caution and have released similar letters in the past regarding the app Communet and around the ‘Choking Game’, which was also shared on social media challenging kids to purposely cut off the oxygen and blood supply to the brain causing temporary loss of consciousness.“The main takeaway is that with our letter home, we can use the example of Momo as an opportunity to raise awareness and remind parents of safe social media and online practices,” she said.Speaking on the topic of cybersecurity, Mount Royal University professor Charles Hepler said, “right now, I don’t believe it’s real.” However, he said copycats could crop up in the future.“Don’t just believe it,” he said. “Everyone can be caught off guard and sucked into things.”He agrees users should bring concerns to someone they trust.The character ‘Momo’ looks like a disfigured female face with bulging eyes, sunken cheeks and a chilling smile. Internet sleuths have traced the image to a sculpture made by Keisuke Aisawa for Link Factory, a company that creates horror film props and special effects.