Posted on October 1, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
In a recent development, the Central Board of Secondary Education has notified the affiliated schools to take measures against the proliferation of “Momo Challenge”—the most recent cyberbullying phenomenon. Parallels have been drawn between the Momo Challenge and Blue whale Challenge that predates it.
CBSE has taken cognizance and intervened issuing a directive to the schools to watch out for student indulgence in Momo Challenge that is accessible through the internet and messaging applications like WhatsApp and social media.
To contain the potential threat the CBSE board has directed the school authorities to look out for abrupt changes in behavioral pattern in students that might manifest as social withdrawal, propensity towards violence and secretiveness.
What is Momo Challenge?
Like its precedent, “blue whale challenge” which allegedly claimed lives of several adolescents and children, it presents the participants with challenges which are initially harmless and progressively become dangerous culminating in self-harm. The underlying characteristic of these cyber abusive games is psychological manipulation and “grooming”.
Reportedly, the user is initiated into the game by getting in touch with an unknown number and remain in touch through WhatsApp.
Essentially in the “game”, the administrator puts forth tasks to be completed by the user, the tasks or challenges which tend to become increasingly dangerous. Reportedly, the final challenge inspires suicide. The administrator gives the user tasks which include serious violent acts.
Children and adolescents with marginal self-esteem are more vulnerable to succumb to these cyberbullying tactics as it deceptively offers a chance of vindication of their abilities to face social taboo and potentially dangerous and life-threatening scenarios.
The opinion is divided regarding the extent and potential of the cyber phenomenon like Momo and blue whale challenge with both people acknowledging and dismissing it as a hoax or inflated threat. The Momo Challenge is believed to have its genesis in Japan whereas the blue whale challenge’s inception had been traced back to Russia.
While the Blue Whale Challenge, which was basically a social network phenomenon, used taunts and exploited the vulnerability of the responder, the Momo Challenge is reported to have a component of threat and blackmail in its cache of psychological manipulation. The commonality lies in the enticement by the administrators to self-harm by generating an emotional crisis that can give way to suicidal ideation.
The Momo challenge that has surfaced in 2018 is an international concern the reason being its conduit is world wide web, with several countries acknowledging and taking measures to mitigate the threat. In India, the menacing chapter of Momo Challenge has first been reported in August 2018.
CBSE has chosen not to dismiss the cyber virulence of the Momo Challenge which is reflected by the directive issued to the schools aiming alleviation of the threat. The Ministry of Information Technology and Electronics has appealed to major internet entities to obstruct the links leading to the Momo challenge game. Although no incident of self-harm has been reported hitherto which could directly be attributed to Momo Challenge it is believed that it is highly likely to put the impressionable in harm’s way and hence to be barred from gaining subscribers.
Measures taken to contain Momo Challenge cyberbullying
It is commendable that CBSE has taken the initiative through advisory authority. It reflects the accountability of the educational boards.
The Ministry of Information Technology and Electronics has underscored the fact that no casualty has been reported yet which can be attributed to the Momo Challenge and digital vigilance is consistent.
The parents have been advised to monitor the online activities of their children and use selective access restricting technology to prevent the exposure of children to inappropriate websites.
CBSE has, in the recent past, taken several measures that are directly connected to the physical and psychological well-being of the students. The directive to regularize sports, possible curtailment of the syllabus that is discerned as burdensome include the recent announcements that reinforce the board’s progressive perspective.
The teachers must be instructed and trained to identify the symptoms of deviance and abuse in students. Besides, schools are instructed to ensure that parents are sensitized and made aware of the utility of the devices that enable monitoring of the child’s online activities.
The internet is one of the defining entities of the 21st century. It cannot be denied that it is open to abuse of which Momo Challenge and blue whale challenge are typical examples. The steps taken by the cyber regulatory authorities have to be complemented by social institutions of which schools and families are keystones.