Everybody knows that IKEA is a magical place. It is a labyrinthian wonderland, full of interconnected home and dining sets strung together by a yellow road and the wafting scent of meatballs. But no matter how much IKEA may look like the set from a Michel Gondry movie, it is still a store and not a playground. It's not really the appropriate spot to plan a massive hide-and-seek game or run away from home and camp out in—though that's what kids are up to now, apparently.
This week, an 11-year-old boy in the UK left school on Tuesday afternoon but never made it home. His parents quickly reported the boy missing, and police began a frantic search for the kid. But when the boy, Kaden Mirza, reappeared the next day, it turned out he hadn't actually been missing at all—he'd just spent the kicking back on a Malm at IKEA, dreaming of viral fame, Mashable reports.
According to Kaden's father, Abid, the kid was inspired to sneak inside the store thanks to a viral YouTube trend where teens spend the night inside a business or disgusting McDonald's play structure and call it the "24-hour challenge." In typical dad fashion, Abid referred to it as the "stay in Ikea overnight and not get caught challenge," but same thing.
Apparently the 24-hour challenge first took off in 2016, when a pair of Belgian teens spent hours crammed in an IKEA closet and managed to spend the night at the store, recording the whole thing for YouTube. Since then, incorrigible youth copycats have pulled similar stunts, sneaking in and building forts inside Walmarts, Chuck E. Cheeses, and water parks, since they have to find some way to entertain themselves now that teens don't party anymore.
In a private Facebook post, Abid wrote that 11-year-old Kaden had "been watching videos and checking [the] web for all this and then deleting it and never left a clue," planning his illicit IKEA caper "quite well."
Sure, the whole thing sounds like an updated version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or an episode of Arthur and is significantly less life-threatening than eating pouches of colorful chemicals, but kids probably shouldn't be creeping into stores after-hours and dicking around. After two 14-year-old girls managed to stay the night in a store in Jönköping, Sweden, in 2016, the retailer tried to crack down on the "non-sponsored sleepovers."
"We appreciate that people are interested in IKEA and want to create fun experiences, however the safety and security of our co-workers and customers is our highest priority which is why we do not allow sleepovers in our stores," a spokesperson told the BBC.
South Yorkshire police pointed out that "warehouses and shopping departments contain large quantities of heavy stock and items that could easily fall and crush someone if they are moved incorrectly," so it's probably best not to start shoving stuff around to make a small fort.
"To many young people this internet craze may seem like a bit of fun that is impressive on social media," Detective Inspector Anna Sedgwick continued. "However, the risks and harm that could be caused are by no means humorous and could be catastrophic."
Hear that, kids? Next time you want to pull a stunt in IKEA, why don't you grab your grandpa and do something really impressive.
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