The family of a schoolgirl who vanished earlier this week have made chilling warnings about a new Facebook craze which is ‘encouraging’ kids to go missing.
Leah Taylor, an 11-year-old girl, disappeared when she was walking home from school earlier this week.
She was found safe and well just one day after going missing, but her family have made warnings against a craze called the ’48-Hour-Challenge’ which they think might have been the reason behind her disappearance.
Lynn Weatherill was understandably distraught when her granddaughter went missing on Monday, and searched throughout the night for her.
On the Monday of her disappearance, Leah was in isolation at her school in Hull, but she fled the premises before her grandmother could collect her from school.
Leah was found at 5pm the next day and taken to a police station, along with a 12-year-old girl, but Leah has said little about why she decided to run away.
But her grandmother thinks Leah might have been duped into taking part in the Facebook-based 48-hour challenge.
She told the Hull Daily Mail:
Leah said she didn’t do that challenge. She just said she ran away with her friend.
She is frightened now and I think she is starting to realise what she has done wrong. She didn’t know about this challenge.
We told her about it and I do believe her but there are other girls in her school who are on Facebook.
The craze involves challenging children to try and hide from their family for as long as they can. The participants are awarded a higher score every time someone mentions them on social media.
Leah’s mum was very relieved when her daughter was found and returned to her family, but thinks Leah could be lying about her knowledge of the challenge.
She said she didn’t know about it but she could be lying. I don’t know.
Nothing like this has ever happened before and I do think it’s because she is getting in with the wrong people.
I’m just glad she is back. I am quite mad at her but I am more relieved that she is at home.
Leah claims she was just staying out with a friend and had nothing to do with this dare, but her family aren’t so sure.
Leah’s grandmother is determined to prevent the game from making its way round Facebook and into the minds of youngsters.
It’s bloody horrible. Facebook needs to put a stop to it and that starts by not letting underage children sign up.
Kids see too much at their age online and they shouldn’t be allowed on Facebook until they are 16.
It’s frightening. We’ve just gone through it all and I’ve seen it on Facebook – lots of people have been telling me about this challenge.
I will battle and battle to try and get kids under the age of 16 off Facebook and I will argue all day about it.
I am old fashioned but I am thinking of the kids and I just want to protect them.
A Facebook spokesperson said:
The safety of young people on Facebook is a responsibility we take extremely seriously and we are awaiting the links to investigate these reports to ensure we are able to take swift action if it is needed.
We work closely with safety experts including the NSPCC, the UK Safer Internet Centre, Missing People, Childnet and many more to help young people have a positive experience on Facebook and collaborate closely with law enforecement agencies on issues regarding child safety.
We encourage people to use the reporting tools available on every page on Facebook if they see content that concerns them, so we can investigate and take action.
According to The Home Office, an estimated 250,000 people go missing in the UK each year.
Charity Missing People helps both those who ‘disappear’ and those who know somebody who has gone missing, they told The Independent the equivalent of the entire population of Plymouth is going missing each year, meaning across the country, one person goes missing every two minutes.
They offer an amazing service where you can report a missing person but also speak to them about any sightings.
For urgent support or advice, please use Missing People UK’s helpline on 116 000, which is available 24/7.