Overnight youth 'missing challenge' reaches Estonia, PPA warns of dangers

A child's swing in a Pärnu park (picture is illustrative).
A child's swing in a Pärnu park (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

A so-called challenge which involves youths deliberately "disappearing" for 24, or even 48 hours, at a time, has reached Estonia, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Reports of the craze appeared in the U.S. media earlier this year; as well as causing distress to the children's families, the practice can also waste valuable police resources unnecessarily.

"Young people need to consider what their parents will be thinking (when they "disappear")," Lt. Col. Juhan Jehvonen, head of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) patrol service, told ERR.

"Plus how much effort the authorities have to make, in searching for them, while at the same time, someone else might be in genuine need," Lt. Col. Jehvonen added.

Parents should also not shy away from relating to authorities the exact circumstances in which their child spirited themselves away, including in the aftermath of a quarrel, or even if the parents had struck the child. The police will need to know these things, Jehvonen added.

An added dimension has seen fraudsters trying to cash in on disappearance cases, whether intentional or not, for instance by contacting families and offering to search for the missing child for a fee.

Searches for missing people are always free of charge, whether by the PPA or volunteers, Jehvonen pointed out.

The craze does seem to have peaked however, he said, with the number of overnight self-disappearances falling, though no overall figure was reported.

The PPA recently announced it receives around 100 cases of police time-wasting per year. Many of these involve children who have lost an expensive item such as a mobile phone, and report it as stolen, or taken by force by a larger child, rather than facing parental wrath, the PPA says.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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