A sick “game” called the 48-Hour Challenge, which encourages children to go missing for up to two days at a time, is circulating on Facebook.
The disturbing viral trend also says points are awarded for every social media mention while they’re missing, meaning frantic friends and family who post appeals to find them are welcomed.
It’s a copycat version of the Game of 72, circulated in Western Europe several years ago, in which children tried to go missing for up to 72 hours.
One mother in County Derry, Ireland, told Belfast Live that her family was left with “unspeakable” anxiety by the “sick” competition.
She said her child, along with others, left their home and was only found 55 hours later.
“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.”
She said she’d since discovered that her children are in the lead on the game within their social circle.
She added: “It was just terrifying and my child, who is 14, doesn’t seem to get it.”
Social media, and Facebook in particular, is a fertile space for such trends to spread.
Recently the duct tape challenge saw kids taping each other to posts - and one youngster suffered a crushed eye socket when he injured himself trying to break free.
A cinnamon challenge saw people coughing and spluttering while trying to eat a spoonful of cinnamon.
While the videos were funny, some doctors warned that the caustic nature of the substance could cause a collapsed lung.
And the salt and ice challenge saw people holding salt and ice together in a closed fist, with the winner being the one who could do it for the longest.
But the extreme cold temperatures generated as a result caused second and third-degree burns for some.