ROCHESTER, Ill. (WICS) — Local police are warning families about a violent and disturbing challenge spreading across social media.
It's called the "Momo suicide challenge" and it apparently encourages kids to take their own lives.
It uses the world-wide messaging app called WhatsApp.
Reports said a user, under the name “Momo”, targets kids and tries to convince them to hurt themselves.
"Satanic. Hellish. Devilish,” said one Springfield WhatsApp user.
The game lurks in the darkest places on WhatsApp.
"That's really disturbing,” Springfield mother, Alexis Pierson, said.
The so-called "Momo challenge" started appearing all over the world in recent weeks and according to the Daily Mail, it seems to follow the same style every time it reaches out to someone.
A user is asked to add “Momo" and soon after, the user gets a barrage of frightening messages encouraging violence or suicide.
"This isn't innocent,” Rochester Chief of Police Kent Bragg said.
Bragg said, from reports across the news, it seems likely the perpetrator has a focus on teenagers.
“Target audience that they're looking for is probably younger people and they're very vulnerable with something like this,” Bragg said.
Reports show Argentinian police are investigating whether "Momo" is linked to a suicide in Escobar, which is in South America, where a 12-year-old girl filmed doing activities prior to hanging herself from a tree.
"It’s scary for me as a parent too,” Bragg said. “That these types of things are out there and you just don't know."
Local parents are now alert.
“I don't understand why somebody would want kids to hurt themselves,” Pierson said.
Bragg said especially with school starting, parents need to keep track of their kids on social media.
"Know what sites your children are going on,” Bragg said. “Put any safety features on your computer at home or your child's cellphone or whatever it is. Don't assume your children are making all the right decisions and doing the right thing."
WhatsApp said they have over a billion users every month. Facebook acquired the messaging app in 2014 because of its fast-growing popularity. Police and parents said the violent challenge could show up anywhere, anytime, including in Springfield.
The game is compared to the "Blue whale challenge" and "Slender man."
Both cases led to violent acts in different places across the United States and in other countries.