Police warn parents about 'Momo challenge'

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MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Deputies say a dangerous trend has come out of nowhere, with possibly deadly results.

It's called the Momo challenge.

Investigators in Mingo County said they've gotten a handful of calls already, including from some alert parents.

Investigators want to stop the cyberbullying before it can even start.

The Momo challenge is linked a spooky photo. Kids using some popular forms of social media, which are anonymous, are challenged to contact Momo, who then challenges them to a series of tasks, the last being suicide.

"It's really scary," said Rhonda Frye, a mother of two kids including an 11-year-old.

Frye said it's not easy to keep tabs on her daughter online.

"No, it's not because you can't stand over the shoulder because you have other things to take care of," Frye said.

High school freshman Gracie Runyon saw the warning from the sheriff's office.

"It scared the life out of me," she said.

Although she attends school nearby in Martin County, Kentucky, a friend told her that her cousin had briefly taken part last week, not knowing the danger, but stopped.

Deputies said complaints have come from middle-school aged boys and girls.

"You're changing so you don't really know how to think," Runyon said.

Investigators tell us the calls have come in from all over the county, but the majority have come from the Kermit area.

Runyon got her first phone four years ago when she was a fifth-grader. The Momo challenge doesn't hold any appeal to her now as a high school freshman, but back then it might have.

"Because it was cool. I wanted to be cool,” she said. “I wanted to be like everyone else and be all cool."

Her message to everyone, parents and kids: "don't believe everything you see."

While Runyon keeps all her social media accounts private to protect herself, Frye is glad the sheriff's office is making this story public.

“I'm glad that it's there because it's something I want to be aware of and I can keep an eye on now,” she said.

The Momo challenge gained some publicity last summer and fall, but Mingo deputies tell us, they never heard of it until Monday. In some cases, alert parents have seen suspicious activity on various apps or online games. In others, the kids themselves have come forward.

While some have said it's an internet hoax, several new reports from around the globe have linked a handful of young suicides to the Momo challenge.

Deputies went to Kermit K-8 on Wednesday to remind kids of the dangers of cyberbullying, but they didn’t mention the specific threat by name.