Police are worried about a new ‘48 hour challenge’ that encourages kids to run away from home
Over the past few years, various internet "challenges" have seen younger people engaging in risky behaviour for the sake of getting some kind of online notoriety. We've had the Tide Pod challenge, the Bird Box challenge, the blue whale challenge, and now, worryingly, the "48 hour challenge".
Concerns about this so-called fad were raised by a Tennessee police department that had seen an "odd spike" in the number of children and teenagers that had been reported missing for 48 hours. Adam Lewis of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office expressed worries that the sudden increase in runaway kids could have something to do with an online community encouraging the behaviour.
"Last week was a bit of an anomaly," Lewis said. "We had five juveniles that were reported as runaways that we were investigating and have located almost all of those individuals since then."
It has not been confirmed whether all those cases were influenced by social media pressure, but law enforcement are urging parents to look out for their kids if they fear that they might be coerced into doing such a thing.
Lewis said that the signs to look out for in a potential runaway are "Distress at home, rebellious behavior, trouble at school, certainly if a teen has threatened to run away."
He continued: "The single best thing parents can do to avoid a situation like this is to spend time with your teens and with your children. Certainly, I think it's important in this day and age, for parents to be aware of who they're hanging out with and what they're being exposed to."
At present, there do not seem to be any confirmed cases of this happening, though similar challenges have surfaced online before.
Back in October 2017, one mother in Ireland reported that her child had fled home with a group of others, and were not located for 55 hours. They had been spurred on to ditch their families by an online challenge, the woman said.
"I was terrified they were dead or would be raped, trafficked or killed," she said. "But these kids just think it’s funny. There was not even a moment of remorse when my child was taken into police custody and when the police brought my child home, I could see posts of selfies from the police car."
The children were reportedly engaging in a competition amongst their peers to see who could vanish for the longest.
"It was just terrifying and my child, who is 14, doesn’t seem to get it," the mother said. "They need a wake up call but I’m worried what that would be."
Hopefully, there will not be any cases of the challenge taking place, and anyone who sees some encouragement to leave home will realise that the internet fad is not worth their family's worry - not to mention the strain on police resources.
That being said, any cases of young people going missing should still be taken seriously, and children who express any desire to run away should be investigated in order to determine whether or not they are suffering from problems at home.