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School district warning parents about dangers of Momo Challenge

By Pari Cruz

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (WDJT) -- An alarmingly dangerous social media trend has prompted the Racine Unified School District to send out a warning to parents.

It is called the Momo Challenge, and it begins with receiving a notification on a social media network like Facebook or WhatsApp.

“It encourages students to do different actions, to do different challenges, and they can become dangerous, even going as far as suggesting that they commit suicide,” said Stacy Tapp, Racine Unified School District Chief of Communications and Community Engagement.

It was something so unsettling; the district felt it was necessary to warn families, sending out a recorded message Thursday afternoon.

“I can’t say that our students have actually interacted with this challenge at all yet,” said Tapp.”But we are starting to hear a little bit about it.”

The Momo Challenge is a social media game where messages tell users to do things.

Challenges start out small, like waking up in the middle of the night… but then it progresses to more dangerous, even violent challenges.

“In these types of challenges, kids aren’t thinking through the ramifications and the consequences and they’re getting hurt,” said Emily Lehnen a Digital Marketing and Social Media instructor at MATC.

She says challenges like these have spiked, and they’re something Wisconsin parents need to be especially careful of.

“In Wisconsin, the Slender Man was kind of a challenge,” said Lehnen. “And I think one of the reasons why people are taking this so seriously is because that hits so close to home.”

“It can be very detrimental just with the ages of children elementary-aged students,” said Dr. Lakiesha Russell from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. “They’re very impressionable, and so the things we see online we kind of absorb it and almost take it for face value.”

Experts say besides monitoring kids screen time, it’s important to talk to them about what they’re seeing online and how it makes them feel.

“Asking the open-ended questions because the dialogue that’s where the relationship is built and the communication is built upon that,” said Dr. Russell.

One of the biggest challenges parents face is not always knowing who is contacting their kids. The Racine Unified School District recommends parents actively talk to their children about staying safe online, and be cautious about what they access.

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