Police Warn About Challenge Encouraging Kids To Go Missing

February 20th, 2019

Various police departments across the nation are warning parents about a dangerous, new, online trend.

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PDF Resources Source: PDF Resources

“The 48-Hour Challenge” is a hashtag circulating on social media that encourages teens to go missing for fun. According to the challenge ‘rules’, once the child has disappeared, they accumulate points for the number of social media mentions their disappearance generates.

In a Facebook post dated February 18, the Tippecanoe County Sherriff’s Office wrote: “We are not trying to cause a panic amongst our community and we are not aware of any reports being taken for this now, but we would not be doing our job if we didn’t make you aware of a new ‘challenge’ that could become an issue.”

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Tippecanoe County Sherriff's Office/Facebook Source: Tippecanoe County Sherriff's Office/Facebook

According to NBC News, other agencies have also issued similar warnings. Adam Lewis, with the Bradly County Sherriff’s Office in Tennessee, said: “Children oftentimes don’t need extra encouragement to make poor choices.”

“Whether it be for attention or to scare their parents or their friends, that’s what we know.”

Lewis said the previous week they’d had five juveniles reported missing as runaways. While they don’t believe the cases were linked to the challenge, officials can’t be sure. Steve Hartman, County Chief Deputy from the Tippecanoe County Sherriff’s Office, also confirmed they hadn’t had any official cases but wanted to warn parents before the idea grew into something more.

A Northern Ireland mother whose child took part in the 48-Hour Challenge in 2017 told The UK Daily Mail:

“This is a competition and it’s sick. The anxiety it left our family is unspeakable. I was terrified they were dead or would be raped, trafficked or killed.”

She added: “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 their police car.”

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Peoria Public Radio Source: Peoria Public Radio

This new online challenge comes on the tail of other dangerous trends including the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’ and the ‘Bird Box Challenge’.

Last month, YouTube banned videos of dangerous pranks after the Bird Box Challenge swept the nation. During the challenge, people attempted to do things with a blindfold over their eyes. Only days after a Utah teen crashed a car while driving blindfolded did YouTube implement the change.

Since being posted to Facebook, the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office post has been shared thousands of times.

Law enforcement also encourages parents to talk to their children about responsible uses of social media. “Runaway and missing person reports are very serious matters and to use these attention-seeking type challenges pulls law enforcement away from their many duties and cause unnecessary anxiety amongst the families and friends that are involved,” they wrote.

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