Worried children have been getting in touch with Childline to talk about the “creepy clowns” phenomenon sweeping the country.
In just one week, Childline has been contacted 120 times by children scared by the trend where people dress up as clowns in order to scare passers-by.
A quarter of kids who have called up were under the age of 11. They called from across the UK, with the highest number taken in Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.
“People getting dressed up as ‘creepy clowns’ and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves,” an NSPCC spokesperson said.
“Clowns are meant to make children laugh but these people are abusing this idea and turning it into something twisted and warped.”
The spokesperson continued: “Increasing reports that these ‘clowns’ are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out.
“Young people should stay well away from them. And if they do happen to see a ‘creepy clown’ out on the streets or lurking near their school they should immediately tell their parents or the nearest responsible adult and report it to the police where necessary.”
The NSPCC said the “sudden” increase of contacts to Childline reflects the increase of reported incidents across the UK.
Cases reported to police have involved clowns chasing children with weapons such as knives or baseball bats and in some instances clowns have been specifically targeting schools.
Police reports have included a 10-year-old boy in Plymouth being threatened by a clown who jumped out of a bush carrying a hammer. In a separate incident in Workington, a clown brandishing an axe chased an 11-year-old girl.
Children have also been targeted online, and in one instance a 13-year-old girl was messaged on Instagram from someone posing as a clown who threatened to cut her throat and rape her, the NSPCC stated.
Police in Essex have previously issued warnings to parents about if their children are seeing the clown craze on their social media.
“Our advice I imagine would be for parents to ensure they are monitoring what their children are watching on social media, use the necessary safeguards on those platforms to prevent them from engaging with or viewing unsuitable media,” Borough commander Jason Gwillim told the Romford Recorder.
“We advise parents to know where their children are, stay together in groups, have a phone ready to call police if need be.”
A statement from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said, according to ITV News: “Anyone with concerns should report to police on 101 so that we can investigate.
“While some might view this as funny, the act of frightening or threatening others may be enough to warrant public order criminal offences.”
If a child is worried, they should call Childline on 0800 1111 or get in touch via chidline.org.uk.