A worrying new craze on social media which sees young children taking part in a shocking challenge which sees them deliberately go missing for 48 hours has been branded "extremely foolish" by Staffordshire Police.

Children as young as 14 have been participating in the new '48-Hour Challenge' which sees youngsters vanish without a word to friends or family to see how much hysteria they can cause as loved ones frantically search for them.

It is a copycat of the 'Game of 72' which swept parts of Western Europe four years ago, reports Belfast Live .

That craze saw children dare each other to vanish without trace for up to three days, and took off quickly in France.

The new craze could be extremely distressing to parents
The new craze could be extremely distressing to parents

Now reports are saying that the 48-Hour Challenge has a twist – every mention the missing child gets on social media increases their score, meaning frantic parents asking their Facebook friends for help only encourages the missing teen.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Brownsword, deputy head of safeguarding for Staffordshire Police, said: "This reported craze where children deliberately go missing is extremely concerning as it could place them at unnecessary risk. Thankfully there have not been any reports of such incidents within Staffordshire.

"Children going missing is very distressing for parents and carers leaving them anxious and worried, not knowing what has happened to their child, fearing the worst. It puts the child at risk of harm and we would urge children not to get involved in such unnecessary risky behaviour.

"Staffordshire Police will respond to all reports of a missing person. Protecting children is a priority for us, and every report of a missing person will be robustly investigated and risk assessed.

One mum told of her pain when she thought her child had gone missing - when they actually took part in the 48-Hour Challenge
One mum told of her pain when she thought her child had gone missing - when they actually took part in the 48-Hour Challenge

"I urge parents and carers to be aware of their child's social media activity and to talk to their children regarding the seriousness of going missing. Such behaviour not only impacts upon the whole family, but places unnecessary demands upon police and other public service resources.

"This is an extremely serious matter. Staffordshire Police will take the appropriate action with any child or young person taking part in this extremely foolish act."

One mum from Co Derry in Northern Ireland whose child disappeared recently said: "This is a competition and it's sick. The anxiety it left our family in is unspeakable.

"My child and others left Co Down and Co Antrim and were found 55 hours later in Ballymena.

"I was terrified they were dead or would be raped, trafficked or killed. 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.

"I've been told my child and friends are in the lead in this competition because they managed to vanish for 55 hours before they were discovered.

"It was just terrifying and my child, who is 14, doesn't seem to get it. They need a wake-up call but I'm worried what that would be."

She said that when police visited the teenager's school, pupils assured officers it was just a Facebook challenge and would be over within 48 hours.

But the youngsters ignored the 48-hour goal and kept the game going.

The mum said: "We got lucky this time. Another teenager may not be so lucky and I dread to think of the consequences that could bring about."