Dear parents and guardians,
As educators, there is nothing more important than ensuring the safety and well-being of students, and the partnership with our families is critical to this effort. We are writing to raise awareness about a viral cyberbullying phenomenon, the Momo Challenge, which has been appearing on online platforms popular with children, including YouTube, WhatsApp and the game Fortnite. Through those platforms, children receive anonymous threatening messages that encourage children to perform acts of self-harm, including suicide.
We bring this to your attention to make you aware of this phenomenon. You may wish to discuss with your children whether they have seen anything scary on their devices and encourage them to speak with you or another trusted adult about what they’ve seen. Even those who may not have seen the challenge may be impacted by conversations with peers who have.
Ask your tweens and teens to promise to talk with you about the Momo Challenge if they receive it. We understand that it’s not realistic to take children’s devices away, but let your children know that this is cyberbullying, it’s potentially dangerous, and that you’re trusting them to let you know what’s going on. We want our young people to know that help is always available.
Please encourage your child to speak with a trusted adult at home or school if they need someone to talk to about this or know someone who does. Teachers, school counselors, social workers, psychologists and principals are here for them.
Attached to this letter are some resources designed to help you begin a conversation with your child about self-harm and suicide. If you have any concerns about your child, please reach out to your child’s counselor or the school social worker.
Stephen M. Tomlinson
Superintendent of Schools
Student Support Staff
HS Counseling Office (Mrs. Simonson and Mrs. Zimmerman): 954-2620
HS Social Worker (Mr. Gottung): 954-2625
MS Counseling Office (Mrs. Steele and Mrs. Hotaling): 954-2722/2704
IS Social Worker (Mrs. Hamill): 954-2781
TLC Social Worker (Mrs. O’Donnell): 954-2671
Suicide Warning Signs
These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has recently increased in frequency or intensity, and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
- Looking for ways to kill oneself, such as searching online
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Giving away prized possessions
- Displaying a preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media
- Acting anxious or agitated, or behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings, including someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy
Adapted from resources provided by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).
Steps to Take if You Suspect a Person is Considering Suicide (from NASP)
Teens who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a teen gives signs that they may be considering suicide, take the following actions:
- Remain calm, be nonjudgmental, and listen. Strive to understand the intolerable emotional pain that has resulted in suicidal thoughts.
- Avoid statements that might be perceived as minimizing the student’s emotional pain (e.g., “You need to move on.” or “You should get over it.”).
- Ask the student directly if they are thinking about suicide (i.e., “Are you thinking of suicide?”).
- Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
- Reassure the person that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
- Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the person alone.
- Without putting yourself in danger, remove means for self-harm, including any weapons the person might find.
- Get help. Never agree to keep a person’s suicidal thoughts a secret. Instead, school staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources. Students should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a school counselor, psychologist, administrator, parent, or teacher.