A stupid new internet craze is sparking large-scale police searches as children ‘disappear’ for 24 hours in department stores.

The so-called 24-hour challenge encourages people to hide and build forts in large stores and warehouses overnight, before sneaking out the following morning.

In one reported case, Abid Mirza of Sheffield said he went through a “very rough time” when his 11-year-old son allegedly spent the night in an Ikea store.

Detective Inspector Anna Sedgwick of South Yorkshire Police said the risks and harm that could be caused are “by no means humorous and could be catastrophic”.

As well as a safety risk, children are doing this without the knowledge of their parents, which is likely to lead to them to be reported missing.

This not only causes fear and worry for parents, friends, family and the local community but can also be a waste of valuable police time, which may be needed to respond to a life or death situation.

Police are now putting plans together and working with schools to bring awareness to these "crazes”.