Advice for professionals about the so-called '48 hour missing challenge'

19 Oct 2017 Andy Robinson

The following information was accurate at the time of writing

A purported social media challenge, labelled the ‘48 hour missing challenge’, has been reported on by some media, however the UK Safer Internet Centre is not currently aware of any evidence to directly link disappearances with an online challenge.

View from Facebook

We have spoken with our partners at Facebook who are investigating the situation and, as it stands, have found nothing to support the validity of these reports.    

When such stories arise it taps into parents’ fears, causing a ripple effect. This can prompt intrigue among young people that may have the adverse effect of leading them into exploring the very harmful behaviours that we are trying to protect them from.

A sensible approach

We recognise that professionals need to stay up to date with matters that concern the safeguarding of young people and have written this blog with that in mind.

While we encourage discussions about online safety and online challenges in general, our advice to professionals is not to circulate information about specific challenges or initiate conversations around them with parents and young people unless approached directly with a concern. Doing so could lead to perpetuating interest in something, which would be counterproductive.

The latest draft UKCCIS guidance for schools dismisses the use of scare tactics as a way to engage children and parents stating:

“Scare tactics or approaches which label specific sites or apps as being “dangerous” could make sites or apps more appealing and so increase the likelihood of risk taking behaviour by children.”

 “When working with parents, identifying specific apps, games or websites as being “bad” or “safe” could lead to a feeling of complacency. Not only will this approach date incredibly quickly, as different apps come in and out of fashion but adults may also incorrectly believe that by banning children from using a particular app, game or website, they will be safe. This approach does not explore the wider underlying behaviour issues which are likely to occur, regardless of which app, game or website is involved.”

In order to safeguard a young person effectively, professionals must consider all aspects of their life and not let the online elements take sole focus.

Our Advice

One of the key issues raised over online challenges is that of peer pressure. Young people can sometimes be drawn into online challenges because it is what all their friends are doing, and saying no can seem like a very hard thing to do.

We would advise parents and carers to have an open and honest conversation with their children. Ask young people about what they’re seeing online and be prepared to talk about some difficult topics around negative influences online.

For more information about our advice around online challenges visit  

If you are a professional working with young people and would like advice about online challenges you can contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline on 0344 381 4772

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