Warning: This article discusses suicide and contains graphic content which may disturb some people.
Parents are being warned of a disturbing suicide game influencing teenagers.
The game, dubbed 'Momo', has emerged on the messaging application WhatsApp. It has been likened to Blue Whale, an online craze believed to have led to the deaths of several teenagers in Russia last year.
In the game Blue Whale, vulnerable teens were encouraged to follow a series of challenges, culminating in taking their own lives. In much the same way, Momo players are reportedly threatened if they don't follow the game's orders.
The game begins with an anonymous controller sending disturbing images to the player over WhatsApp, the Mirror reports. The avatar for Momo is a haunting image of a woman with bulging eyes taken from the work of Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who has no connection to the game.
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The suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina has allegedly already been linked to the game. The girl filmed a video on her phone shortly before she died, the Buenos Aires Times reports.
It's believed the girl was encouraged to commit suicide, and police in Buenos Aires are investigating an 18-year-old teenager who allegedly contacted the 12-year-old.
"The phone has been hacked to find footage and WhatsApp chats, and now the alleged adolescent with whom she exchanged those messages is being sought," police said in a statement.
Mexican authorities have also caught on to the disturbing trend, issuing an information campaign to warn young people and parents about Momo. The Computer Crime Unit of Tabasco said criminals can use the game to steal personal information and generate psychological disorders.
In the game Blue Whale, participants were required to complete daily tasks for 50 days, beginning with watching horror movies and waking up at unusual hours, escalating to acts of self-mutilation.
On the final day, the manipulators behind the game reportedly instructed the youngsters to commit suicide, according to local media.
The deaths of two Russian schoolgirls who fell to their death from the roof of a 14-storey apartment were linked to the game.
Where to get help:
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO
- Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234, or email email@example.com
- Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754