Jamoneisha Merritt
Jamoneisha Merritt suffered burns to her face, neck, back and chestScreengrab

A sleepover among schoolchildren ended with a young girl suffering permanent scars to her face and upper body after she was intentionally doused with boiling water while she slept.

Jamoneisha Merritt, 11, continues to recover in hospital and has yet to be given a mirror to see the severe skin burns she will have for the rest of her life.

"We're trying to keep her spirits up, talking to her," the girl's aunt, Lawrene Merritt, told WCBS.

The family shared a heartbreaking photo of Jamoneishia in the burn unit, showing the girl with injuries to her face, neck, back and shoulders.

Police say the youngster believed she was among friends when she was "viciously and intentionally" scalded on Monday morning (7 August) at a sleepover in an apartment building in the Bronx.

As she was sleeping detectives say a 12-year-old girl threw boiling water in her face and over her upper body, prompting her to awake in agony as her skin burnt away.

She was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition.

A 12-year-old girl is being charged with felony assault, local news site NY1 reported.

"They were very wicked," Lawrene Merritt said of her niece's supposed friends. "That didn't make sense. I mean, I couldn't even imagine a child doing that to another child."

Police are investigating whether the friends may have been taking part in a new social media craze dubbed the "hot water challenge", which sees victims get scalding water thrown at them.

But the girl's mother, Ebony Merritt, suggested it could be a case of extreme bullying, saying her daughter had suffered bullying in the past and that she had been told since the incident that the girls didn't like her.

"It's been going on several times. The girl admitted it. 'I don't like her. I wanted to do it'," she said.

It comes less than two weeks after eight-year-old Ki'ari Pope of Florida died when she was suspected of taking part in the game by drinking boiling water.

It led the victim's mother to warn other parents about dangerous crazes being spread online.