Update: Though the Game of 72 has caused concern among parents and authorities, recent reports indicate it's not as widespread as previously thought. We've updated this story to reflect this new information, and written a follow-up with more details about how this game may be a hoax.
Last week, there were reports that teens were playing a disappearing act on their parents with a nefarious social media challenge called The Game of 72, which reportedly dared teens to disappear from and have absolutely no contact with their parents for 12, 24 or 72 hours, NECN reported.
The game, which has inspired the hashtag #GameOf72, allegedly originated in France when a 13-year-old girl named Emma disappeared for three days. When she was found, she wouldn't tell authories where she went, but only said she had played the Game of 72. This is the only reported case.
The Game of 72 supposedly starts when someone receives a private message on social media asking them to play the game, NECN reported. The person who receives the message then has to completely disappear — both online and offline — for, in most cases, three straight days.
As you might imagine, this game hasn’t gone over well with local authorities and parents. After all, there’s an average of 90,000 people missing in the United States at any time. This new challenge would only add to the burden of authorities.
"It is beyond foolish," Constable Brian Montague told The Huffington Post B.C. "Each year we have between 3,000 to 4,000 missing persons cases in Vancouver alone. This would add to the already overburdened workload of our officers, not to mention all the grief and torment it would cause parents."
But Montague told Mic that parents don't have to worry about the game, as it has yet to spread among teens.
"We never issued a warning about the game as has been reported," Montague told Mic. "We responded to questions about it from media and unfortunately they turned it into a warning from police."
Similarly, The Local, a newspaper based in France, where the game allegedly started, said the Game of 72 also isn't anything for parents to worry about, even though the game has already caused some parents to panic.
“The Facebook challenge has left authorities baffled — not least because they've been unable to actually find examples of it online,” The Local reported. “Rather, they've uncovered plenty of panicked postings from parents who are eager to warn each other about the game.”
But the rumors of this challenge serve as a reminder for parents that they need to keep track of what their teen does on social media. Expert Jesse Miller of Mediated Reality, a media safety organization, told The Vancouver Province that parents should monitor their child’s social media habits to make sure their teens aren’t participating in this rumored new fad or other dangerous online trends.
"I think parents should be aware of trends, whether it’s something positive like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or something like Game of 72," Miller told The Province. "Parents need to be aware."
This game is not unlike a Facebook challenge in France last year called "To the water or a restaurant," where social media users were challenged to either pay for someone’s meal or throw themselves into a river, according to The Huffington Post. The challenge caused the death of one teen, who drowned after he jumped into the water, HuffPost reported.
And then there was the cinnamon challenge, where youngsters were dared to swallow scoops of cinnamon. The challenge left some teens sick, poisoned and even with collapsed lungs, according to The New York Times.
The concern over these challenges has led parents to take more consideration into what their teens are doing on social media. The Wall Street Journal’s Anton Troianovski suggests parents familiarize themselves with social media websites so they can better understand what their teen may be doing online.
He also says parents should look at who their children are friending online, what specific pages teens are visiting and who might be following their child on social media.
This is something parents are already doing to a certain extent. I wrote about a Pew study back in March that found the majority of parents are already friends with their teens on Facebook. Parents have also started following their children on Twitter and other social media pages, like Instagram and Snapchat.
It also might be important for parents to help their teens understand the risks of social media. Our own Chandra Johnson talked to experts who said it’s important for parents to use social media alongisde their children so that teens feel comfortable talking to their parents about the problems they run into online.
"You have to walk the road with them. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first,” parenting blogger Kay Wyma told the National. "If they’re telling me about their day, I’ll ask them how something made them feel. And if they’re holding their phone I’ll say, 'How does that make you feel?'"
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.