The father of an 11-year-old who vanished for 24 hours has warned others to be aware of a new ‘hiding craze’ that sees children disappear.
In a Facebook post, desperate Abid Mirza, from Sheffield, said: ‘I hope no parents go through this. We have been through a very very hard time.’
Just hours beforehand he posted that his son Kaiden, 11, had gone missing after school, sparking a frantic city-wide search for the boy.
South Yorkshire Police were also hunting for the schoolboy, launching appeals online and handing out leaflets with Kaiden’s face on.
But 24 hours later, he was found, with Abid revealing his disappearance was down to an online challenge that asked people to ‘stay in Ikea overnight and not get caught’.
‘I just don’t have words to describe what to say,’ Abid wrote.
‘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 may I shouldn’t have had. But he’s been watching videos and checking the web for all this and then deleting it and never left a clue.’
He urged other parents to check their own children’s phones, tablets and computer history and pick up on anything that doesn’t appear normal.
‘This trend is growing,’ he said. ‘These kids are different at home and something else outside. Please look after your children.
‘Be very careful and if you do go to supermarkets, stores or especially IKEA, just watch out for kids on their own after school and report them please.
‘We as a family are very greatful to everyone who helped out in any way. We have been through very very hard time.’
Abid is now hoping to turn the events on Tuesday and Wednesday into a positive by warning other parents of the increasingly popular craze by speaking out.
He has also been into King Ecgbert School, where his son attends, to speak to staff about the incident and what they can do to make parents and children aware of the risks.
South Yorkshire Police said the trend known as the ’24 hour challenges’ were becoming more popular – with children building ‘forts’ inside shops to hide in overnight.
Detective Inspector Anna Sedgwick said: ‘To 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.’
A spokesperson for Ikea said: ‘We’re pleased that Kaiden is back home safely with his family.
‘At IKEA, the safety and security of our customers is one of our highest priorities and we are constantly reviewing our security procedures to better prevent these incidents from happening.
‘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.’