(Eagle News) – The Department of Information and Communication Technology, together with the Philippine National Police, is now investigating the sinister “Momo challenge” that has recently been linked to the death of an 11-year old boy.
Information and Communication Technology Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr on Friday, March 1, called on parents to report to them any suspicious online and social media activity of their children that might be connected to the “Momo” which tricks and forces children and teenagers to commit self-harm, and eventually the extreme challenge of suicide.
“We encourage the public to please report any suspicious online activity that their children are doing and to report this to the cybersecurity bureau,” he said in a press briefing where he announced the creation of an inter-agency task force that will investigate this.
-Coordination with Facebook-
Rio said that his department had also coordinated with Facebook so that it would take down or block any online or social media activity that would involve “Momo.”
“Our cybersecurity bureau has already made a coordination with Facebook which operates the Whatsapp for the blocking of anything associated with the Momo challenge,” he said.
The PNP is also starting its own investigation into these “Momo challenge” cases and is coordinating with parents who have already reported suspicious online activity of their children that may be linked to this sinister and manipulative cyberbully mechanism.
Rio said any evidence that they would be able to gather will be coordinated with Facebook and other social media platforms so that this “Momo challenge” would be blocked.
“Children are reportedly tricked to follow a step-by-step instruction to get involved in unsafe dares, which will eventually lead them to commit self-harm,” a DICT release said.
“According to accounts, the challenge manipulates children to keep the matter to themselves or they will face certain consequences,” it added.
The Momo challenge uses a picture of an eerie-looking sculpture of a woman’s head with long stringy black hair, bulging eyes and a devilish grin that scares children victims to do its harmful dares.
It has alarmed parents, schools and local authorities worldwide after news of deaths reportedly linked to the sinister online challenge.
-Information drive vs Momo-
Rio said that the DICT will do text blasts, and conduct an information drive that will help parents and children in addressing this latest viral cyber threat.
“We know that children are more techy than parents… but it is important that parents should be monitoring or guiding their children on what should be on their cellphones,” he said.
He said that if there are measures for parental guidance on television program, there should also be a “parental guidance on gadgets” that connects children to the internet.
“There will be a short video on the danger of cyberspace,” Rio said.
“We are mandated to make our cyberspace safe for our citizens, and this is part of our mandate that we are doing right now,” he said.
Rio said that the DICT Cybersecurity Bureau is monitoring the situation and will continue to look into policy and technical remedies to address the issue.
“We will continue our efforts in making the cyberspace a safe place, especially for our children but we need the cooperation of the parents. They should be mindful of the activities of their children online,” he said.
Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies Allan S. Cabanlong echoed Rio’s statement, saying they will continue their effort on conducting Digital Parenting conferences.
“It is our fervent hope that parents play an active role in monitoring their kids online as the greatest influence to children is not the government nor the schools, it’s them- the parents,” Cabanlong said.
The DICT has conducted three Digital Parenting conferences last year. For 2019, the Cybersecurity Bureau is planning to hold the said forum in the provinces, starting with Cagayan de Oro on April 4.