'My son had to go to counselling after seeing sinister Momo self-harm game character, says Dromore mum
A mother has told how her son has had counselling in school after being referred for support after seeing the Momo "suicide game" character several times.
Stacy Diamond, from Dromore, was horrified to discover that both of her young sons had seen Momo.
Her youngest Josh (6) has had counselling in school this week and is now being referred for more support after seeing the scary character several times.
Stacy (32) believes that Josh got to stage four of what's being claimed to be a 10-step sinister challenge - which from stage five is believed to encourage children to self-harm.
Her eldest boy Blake (7) also told his mum that Momo had appeared on his tablet while playing a game.
She says: "I knew nothing about it and then on Monday I heard it on the news when the boys were in bed.
"I thought I would keep the picture and show it to them in the morning to see if they had seen it.
"Blake said he had seen it on his tablet and when I showed Josh the picture he went white and my heart just sank.
"I explained to the boys that it wasn't real and just a picture and that bad people were behind it," she said.
"Later that day Blake had his teddy on the bench in the kitchen and I asked him why it was there. He said that the teddy was up to mischief and was telling him to turn the oven on.
She added: "Apparently that is stage four of the challenge and stage five is the start of self-harm. I felt physically sick and just wanted to throw up."
Stacy says she carefully monitors her boys' use of their tablets and has them set up in such a way that everything they do comes through her account.
She was devastated that her sons have fallen victim to such a sinister online threat and contacted their school and the PSNI immediately.
She says she is stunned by reports that Momo is fake after seeing the impact on her youngest son whose behaviour changed last week.
Stacy now intends to refer her son for further counselling to get over the trauma and is stunned by reports that parents have nothing to worry about.
She adds: "I went onto YouTube and watched a Peppa Pig video on Monday night and four minutes into it Momo appeared and in this childish voice said 'Momo is going to get you, Momo is going to kill you' so I've seen it for myself."
It comes as safe-guarding agencies moved to allay fears after mass panic was sparked among parents here and around the world following warnings about Momo.
The PSNI faced criticism after they put out a NI-wide alert at the weekend warning about the "suicide game targeting our kids" - but they said they had no report of incidents.
Police detailed how a creepy character would appear in the middle of harmless games and challenge children to self-harm or a curse would be put on them.
One officer on a PSNI Facebook page described how he had watched the footage adding: "There is no disputing the content being sent is horrendous."
The officer went on to advise parents on how to try and protect their children in the online world. The warnings, which remained online yesterday, sparked a huge reaction and a stream of news reports.
In the wake of the PSNI warnings, schools sent out advisory letters in children's schoolbags warning of the dangers the game posed.
However, charities including the Samaritians and NSPCC debunked the reports, saying there was no evidence of any child harmed, and YouTube said the content was not on its platform as had been claimed.
In addition, BBC Northern Ireland was accused of "quietly re-writing" an online article on the Momo challenge. A story published on Tuesday stated as fact that the character challenged children to "take their own lives".
Later a clarification was added to the story alerting readers to the changes, after the broadcaster was contacted by The Times newspaper.
The SDLP's Dolores Kelly branded it "irresponsible" of police to send out a warning sparking mass panic with so little evidence, saying it may have been a "knee-jerk reaction".
She said there was a need to take cybercrime out of the hands of police and recruit skilled digital specialists.
Alliance MLA and Policing Board member John Blair said the matter would have to be discussed at their next meeting.
In response, the PSNI said it was committed to "keeping people safe" in both the online and real worlds.