The so-called “48-Hour Challenge” is the latest viral challenge to catch the attention of authorities, although it remains unclear whether or not teens are actually doing it, or like the Tide Pod Challenge, the whole thing is much ado about not a lot.
As Yahoo News reports, St. Louis police are warning teens and parents about the dangers of the viral challenge, where teenagers deliberately go missing for up to 48 hours and are awarded points for every time their name is mentioned on social media.
Besides being devastating to parents and the teens’ communities, and besides the fact that teenagers going missing is neither a game nor a joke, police say that teens pretending to go missing ties up much-needed resources. They warn that any teenager caught faking their own disappearance can face criminal charges.
Via WREG-TV (Memphis), Albuquerque Police Department spokesperson Simon Drobik didn’t mince words when told about the viral challenge.
“This could be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
He also notes that neither his police department nor any other in the country has the luxury of determining whether a missing teenager is pranking them or is legitimately in danger, and says that his department will put every resource they have into any case of a missing child.
WHAT KIND OF CHALLENGE IS THIS!? ????????????￼https://t.co/HFLwGl9WmV— Bobby Bones Show (@bobbybonesshow) February 14, 2019
However, as it turns out, there may not be as much to this story as Albuquerque and St. Louis police seem to believe. As is often the case with these fads and viral challenges involving children and teenagers, there often seems to be more reporting and warnings about the challenge than there are actual cases of anyone doing the challenge.
What’s more, it doesn’t seem to have actually happened at all, at least not within the past year or so. A Google search of the terms “missing teen hoax” and “missing teen prank” turned up only stories about the challenge, and no criminal cases of any teens actually doing the prank. However, it bears noting that such a thing could have happened without being reported in the national news.
In the same vein, previous viral challenges have had similar ratios of actually happening to being reported about. For example, the so-called “Tide Pod Challenge,” which was supposedly poisoning and sickening tens of thousands of teenagers and children (and some adults) all over the world, and which was breathlessly reported on by the media when it was popular a few years ago, turned out to be a giant hoax. As urban legend-busting website Snopes reported at the time, the number of people who actually got poisoned by Tide Pods in 2018 was in the dozens, not thousands.