A fuming dad has hit out at a ‘sick’ internet challenge which encourages kids to ‘vanish’ for 24 hours – after his 11-year-old son hid overnight in an IKEA superstore.
Abid Mirza, 30, was left ‘fearing the worst’ when schoolboy Kaden failed to return home from school on Tuesday and he alerted the police who mounted a search.
However, the youngster was found the following morning after apparently taking part in an internet challenge called: “Stay Inside IKEA Overnight and Not Be Discovered.”
The 11-year-old told police he had been duped into taking part in a dangerous new craze which is sweeping the nation.
The shocking game invites children to hide out in popular stores, sneaking in just before closing time and avoiding security to spend the night while filming it all and posting it online.
Abid says he was racked with anxiety when his son failed to return home after leaving King Ecgberts School in Sheffield, South Yorks., on Tuesday afternoon (6 Feb).
After a check of his son’s internet weeks before his disappearance, he found Kaden had been looking at websites detailing how to hide for 24 hours without being detected.
Abid, from Nether Edge in Sheffield, South Yorks., said: “We have been through a very rough time in the last 24 hours. I hope no parents go through this.
“I just don’t have the words to describe what to say.
“A few weeks ago I saw on his mobile history where he searched for ’24hrs stay in school and go undetected’.
“I confronted him and asked him and he said ‘Oh, I heard this in school and was just looking it up’.
“I thought nothing of it as I believed him but maybe I shouldn’t have.
“He’s been watching videos and checking the web for all this and then deleting it and never left a clue. He planned it quite well.
“We as a family are very grateful to everyone who helped out in any way, we have been through very, very hard time.
Abid has now turned to Facebook to issue a warning to parents about the new craze.
“I am in contact with the teacher and trying to speak to other people where we can come up with something which will help other parents to check up and keep an eye on their children,” he added.
“Look at their phones, tablets, anything they’ve got and go through their history to see anything that’s not normal.
“Two kids from the Firth Park area tried doing this same thing last week and got caught within few hours. And this trend is growing.
“Be very careful and if you do go to supermarkets, stores or especially IKEA, just watch out for kids on their own, especially after school. Report them please.”
Following the incident at its store, Sheffield IKEA has stressed that it will be looking at measures to prevent it from happening again.
An IKEA spokesperson said: “At IKEA, the safety and security of our customers is one of our highest priorities.
“We appreciate that people want to create fun experiences with us, but we do not allow this kind of activity to take place in our stores.
“We are constantly reviewing our security procedures to better prevent these incidents from happening.”
South Yorkshire Police has highlighted the dangers of ’24 hour challenges’ and the implications they can have following the incident in Sheffield.
Detective Inspector Anna Sedgwick said: “Too many young people this internet craze may seem like a bit of fun that is impressive on social media, however the risks and harm that could be caused are by no means humorous and could be catastrophic.
“Warehouses and shopping departments contain large quantities of heavy stock and items that could easily fall and crush someone if they are moved incorrectly, or used to build makeshift forts.
“There is also the potential risk of electrical faults and fires, which could have devastating consequences.
“As well as the safety risk, children often do this without the knowledge of their parents, which could lead to large-scale searches or even cause them to be reported as missing.
“This not only causes fear and worry for parents, friends, family and the local community but can also be a waste of valuable police time, which may be needed to respond to a life or death situation.
“Work is currently ongoing with local schools and community groups, to raise awareness of the dangers of this internet challenge amongst parents and I hope by highlighting the seriousness of the craze, young people will think twice before taking part.
“As a parent myself, I’d like to appeal to fellow parents to reach out to their children and give a little guidance. A few words of advice could save your youngster’s life.”