Childline receives hundreds of distressed calls over creepy clown craze - NSPCC issues warning
Childline have received hundreds of calls about young people's fears over creepy clowns - and have provided 84 related counselling sessions in one day alone.
With Halloween celebrations across the country set to take place this weekend there are fears the creepy clown craze will reach its peak.
The 'killer clown' craze has been sweeping the globe with people dressing up to scare members of the public.
In response to the craze a series of schools in Northern Ireland closed following a series of threats.
Holy Trinity College in Cookstown was among those that closed after reports that a "killer clown" was going to the school.
Before that armed police guarded over two Ballymoney schools after knife-wielding clowns threatened to pay a visit.
It came just days after a knife was brandished by a group of teenagers dressed as clowns in the town's Riverside Park.
Ahead of that a school in Coleraine shut its doors after reports that 'killer clowns' were about to strike.
The PSNI has issued warnings on Facebook that while 'killer clown' costumes are not illegal, crimes could still be committed, such as common assault - any act which intentionally or recklessly causes another to fear immediate, unlawful violence.
However concerns have been raised that individuals will dress up in clown costumes to intentionally threaten or harm passers-by, including children over the Halloween weekend.
The NSPCC on Friday issued a stark warning to any individuals planning to spoil the festivities by deliberately intimidating children, reminding them that their behaviour could get result in police action.
In the last three weeks Childline has been contacted 462 times by children afraid of creepy clowns – providing 84 clown-related counselling sessions on one day alone.
Nearly a third of counselling sessions on the subject of clowns were with children under the age of 11 - reaching 139 in total - and three quarters of those who got in touch over clown fears were girls.
The deluge of calls Childline reflects a flurry of reported creepy clown incidents across the UK.
The contacts to Childline reveal a mixture of children afraid of clowns after seeing scary videos online and on social media as well as those threatened or frightened by creepy clowns in their neighbourhood.
One boy, aged 11, said: “I'm really scared to go outside in case I see one of these clowns. There is stuff all over social media about it showing them hurting people. My mum has tried to reassure me but I'm absolutely petrified.”
Meanwhile an 11-year-old girl said: “I have seen some clowns in my area and I’m absolutely terrified about leaving the house now. There are all these things going round about them on social media too and they have been making threats at people. What can I do?”
If you are concerned about the creepy clowns:
- Talk to a parent or a teacher or trusted adult
- Call Childline if they want to discuss their worries or get advice and support
- Block and report abusive messages from people posing as creepy clowns on social media
- Contact the police if they are threatened by a creepy clown in the street
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Wearing spooky fancy dress for Halloween is a time-honoured tradition, but we fear the recent creepy clown craze could see Halloween used as an opportunity to molest, intimate or harm children. Creepy clowns are all trick and no treat; those dressing up with the intention of threatening children need to be aware that they could be breaking the law – particularly if they are carrying weapons.
“Young people who have seen scary clown videos on social media should report any inappropriate clips, and if they are contacted by someone posing as a creepy clown online – block them.
“Children who feel threatened by ‘creepy clowns’ in the street or near their school should tell their parents or the nearest responsible adult and report it to the police where necessary.
“If a child is worried they should call Childline on 0800 1111 or get in touch via chidline.org.uk”
Breakdown relating to counselling sessions on issue of clowns:
Where age is known:
11 and under - 139
12-15 - 134
16-18 - 25
Unknown - 164
Where gender known
Girls - 299
Boys - 104
Unknown - 59