Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

BRICK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS Philly/CBS Local) School officials in New Jersey are warning parents of a disturbing social media challenge that is encouraging children to commit dangerous acts, including physical harm and suicide.

The so-called “game” known as the “Momo Challenge” uses a creepy-looking avatar to communicate with children via the smartphone messaging application  “WhatsApp” or through Facebook. Police say children are encouraged to contact “Momo,” and then asked to post photos or video of them committing violent acts. The avatar blackmails children by telling them that she has damaging information on the players and will release it if they don’t play the game.

The Brick Township Public Schools is asking parents to monitor their children’s use of social media and the internet after the challenge came to light when a Brick Township parent told the Asbury Park Press that a student at Warren H. Wolf Elementary reportedly shared descriptions of the challenge with first-grade classmates and allegedly had acted on some of the directions from the challenge.

According to a Washington Post report, at least three deaths have been investigated in connection with the challenge in other countries.

The challenge has prompted police departments worldwide to also issue warnings.

According to cyber experts, the challenge is nothing but a hoax that aims at stealing personal data and torturing children physically and mentally.

Some police departments have also reported “Momo” copycats.

Police say children should never respond to unidentified messages on social media and parents should advise their children to never share personal data, photographs or phone numbers on the internet.