Professionals are warning parents that they should talk to their kids as a new viral challenge spreads across social media and puts children in potential danger.
The "Momo Challenge" is an online cyberbullying game targeting young kids and teenagers through Facebook and WhatsApp. It threatens children with violence if they don't commit potentially dangerous activities.
Children who participate in the challenge are first sent a message with a photo of a woman with bulging eyes, an elongated face and a large, contorted smile.
Accompanying the photo is a message that directs children to commit various acts - some simple, some more violent - and show photographic proof of those acts or risk being harmed.
U.S. & World
NBC10 spoke to one young New Jersey boy who was sent the photo by a classmate.
"Momo stabs you with a knife when you're sleeping at night," said the boy, who is not being identified by NBC10 because of his age.
The game has reportedly been linked to suicides in other countries but authorities have not offered proof of that connection.
In New Jersey, the Cape May Police Department posted a Facebook message to parents warning that, "This 'game' is believed to be a way for people to hack accounts and is psychologically manipulative towards kids and teens."
Meghan Walls, a pediatric psychologist, says parents should take preemptive action and gently ask their younger children if they know about the challenge.
"Say something like, 'There's some scary things that pop up on phones and tablets, and if you ever see something like that, come get me,'" Walls said.
When it comes to older kids, Walls said it's not realistic for parents to threaten to take their phones away, but they should have an open dialogue with their children.
Parents should let those older kids know that the challenge is cyberbullying, it's potentially dangerous and that they're trusting their kids to let them know what's going on.
"Especially as kids get older and they're teenagers, they want some of that autonomy and they deserve some of that autonomy as long as they can show you they're responsible enough," Wells said.