A mother whose eight-year-old son was left terrified by a “suicide game” has warned other parents to be wary of the content their children are accessing online.
Lyn Dixon from Edinburgh became concerned when her son refused to go upstairs by himself after becoming petrified of a “game” known as the Momo Challenge.
The social media craze often encourages youngsters to hurt themselves after they have been invited to take part in the challenge by an unknown referee – symbolised by a horror-inducing female face.
The game has been linked to at least two deaths and versions have been reported in Colombia, Mexico and Australia and users have reported being threatened if they do not post evidence of themselves completing the challenges.
Lyn said the game once encouraged her son to stab himself in the neck and parents from across the country have previously aired concerns about violent imagery being shared in connection with the game on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
She told The Herald: “It started with him not wanting to go upstairs on his own because it was dark up there. He was terrified and wouldn’t sleep in his own bed and then we got to the bottom of it and we explained it wasn’t real.”
“He showed me an image of the face on my phone and said that she had told him to go into the kitchen drawer and take out a knife and put it into his neck.
“We’ve told him it’s a load of rubbish and there are bad people out there who do bad things – but it’s frightening, really frightening.”
The Japanese special effects company behind the face has said it has no prior affiliation with the game.
Lyn and her husband informed school teachers, who gave an internet safety talk to pupils, but admits she is worried about the impact the game has on youngsters using the internet.
She said: “It’s a big fear, that we can’t always control what he’s exposed to on the internet. You read these stories about children committing suicide and we all know how difficult life is now with the pressures on children.”
Lyn added: “Social media is a massive part of that. It’s horrific and we’ve got no control over it.”
“There are controls on the phone but it doesn’t go to the degree I would like it to because it’s what you can’t see that’s the worry.”
An NSPCC Scotland spokesman said: “The constantly evolving digital world means a steady influx of new apps and games and can be hard for parents to keep track of.
“That’s why it’s important for parents to talk regularly with children about these apps and games and the potential risks they can be exposed to.”
He added: “The NSPCC publishes advice and guidance for parents on discussing online safety with their children, as well as Net Aware – the UK’s only parental guide to social media and gaming apps.”