Police have issued warnings to parents on social media as a result of challenging a famous WhatsApp challenge, sometimes infiltrating children's YouTube videos. Northern California mother says her daughter is a victim of– and created an almost catastrophic situation at home.
The children participating in the challenge contact a terrifying stranger – "Momo" – who communicates primarily via the WhatsApp, Facebook-owned email application. Momo encourages a participant to perform various tasks if he wishes to avoid being "cursed". Some of the tasks include self-injury. In the end, the game ends when Momo tells the participant to commit suicide and save it for social media.
Pearl Woods told CBS Sacramento that the character had encouraged her 12-year-old autistic daughter to do dangerous things. "Just another minute, she could have blown up my apartment, she could have hurt herself, to other people, beyond the scary," Woods said.
Woods, who lives in Folsom, pays close attention to the videos his daughter, Zoey, can watch online and has several parental settings.
"She is in the spectrum and many children who are are very impressionable," she said.
A few weeks ago, Zoey started to show unusual behavior.
"Where does suicide come from? Why would she ask me for a knife at a point of sale?" Woods said.
Last weekend, Zoey turned on the gas stove in the kitchen without letting it ignite, creating a potentially explosive situation.
"She did not stop talking to me about Momo and I just did not understand, I see now," Woods said.
She discovered some alarming short clips that appeared in the videos that Zoey was watching. "She hung up the screen as soon as I walked in and saw this scary masked doll watching," Woods said.
His daughter told him: "It was Momo who was doing bad videos, it was bad."
"It's really a danger of fire explosion," said Captain Chris Vestal with Metro Fire Bag. "We really encourage parents to pay attention to what their kids are doing on the internet, to ask them what they do."
Across the country, children report seeing videos of Momo with a strange, cartoon-like character telling children to do dangerous things.
CBS Los Angeles reports that Dr. Free Hess, a pediatrician and mother, was troubled by what she found on the screen of her 7-year-old son Tanner: Violent content, sexual innuendo and video clips married in children's videos including a man giving advice on suicide.
"We have no idea what this content sees in children, their brains are not fully developed and so they are not able to think about complex situations such as what 's wrong. they see, "said Dr. Hess.
The original image of "Momo" is actually a sculpture called "Mother Bird" by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa, exhibited in 2016 at the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo. There is no evidence that Aisawa Corporation, Link Factory, participated in the creation or execution of the Momo Challenge. Link Factory did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.
Like most memes, the Momo challenge seems to have disappeared shortly after its virality. But this week, UK parents find the game on WhatsApp and are hiding in animated children's videos on social media. "WhatsApp is deeply concerned about the security of its users," WhatsApp spokesman told CBS News on Tuesday. "It's easy to block any phone number and we encourage users to report problematic messages so we can take action."
A spokesman for YouTube told CBS News on Tuesday: "Our community guidelines prohibit harmful and dangerous challenges, including promoting the Momo Challenge, and we remove that content quickly when we report it."