A Whiteside County school district is warning parents of a re-emerging online trend.
In a letter Wednesday, Superintendent of Morrison Community Unit School District Scott Vance said they’d seen an increase of students who have seen or are talking about the Momo Challenge.
Local 4 News first looked into this issue in the summer of 2018, but the image of a woman with bulging eyes has since reappeared on video games and content on the YouTube Kids site.
What has caused so much concern about this so-called challenge is it uses accounts with the username Momo to encourage kids to hurt themselves or others.
While Local 4 News researched this challenge, children protection and internet safety experts along with law enforcement call it a hoax, saying there’s been no confirmed evidence this has led to a suicide.
But for Vance, who also has three kids in the Morrison School District, said it’s still scary this is appearing in content that kids are watching.
Morrison Superintendent Scott Vance said, “As a parent, it’s terrifying. As a superintendent or administrator, it’s just slightly less terrifying.”
Until a few days ago, Vance said he didn’t know the message of behind scary face or its words.
Vance said, “My wife sent me a Facebook message, and there were a number of community parents discussing it.”
He said it also became quickly apparent it was in the schools.
Vance said, “One of my elementary principles mentioned that in the fifth grade that was a hot topic of discussion.”
With a child in that grade himself, it prompted a look, and Vance said part of the concern is the communication this so-called challenge is supposed to contain.
Vance said, “Youth suicide is on the rise, we’re seeing more of that being discussed, so anytime you see something like a social media challenge or game that if not promoting it, at least discussing it, we want our parents to be aware of it.”
That’s the reason he decided to send out a notice to families on Wednesday.
“Something that has been around – from my research – for a while but it’s now making its way to Morrison, and we need to be aware of it,” said Vance.
Vance told Local 4 News his goal by sending out the letter isn’t to scare parents but to make them aware of what students are discussing in the schools and give them the information and resource to then have a conversation with their kids.
Vance said, “Inform them what’s out there and allow them to parent their kid.”
Vance added staying safe online is a conversation he and his wife had with their three kids this week because of the unknown of where this can appear.
Vance said, “You could be in the same room with your child, watching them play Fortnite or Roblox or one of those games and think everything is fine and actually looking at the screen and you walk away for five seconds, and this thing pops up.”
Vance also told Local 4 News one thing his family is looking at is keeping their kids of YouTube for the time being.
“It’s starting sooner now, I mean, I have a kindergartener, who I don’t want to say is active online but it’s curious about what is out there, and so we have those conversations. Ten years ago I never thought you’d be talking to a kindergarten student or first-grade student about online safety,” said Vance.
Vance also said what make this hard to control is most time, kids find a lot of this content on their own.