You've seen the calls for action on social media, as people search for missing teens in Washington, D.C. But the plea is coming from police and families across Maryland: a teen from Bel Air, a mother and daughter from Cherry Hill and entire family in Harford County are all missing.
According to the FBI, every 40 seconds a child or teen goes missing or is abducted in the U.S. Now people are questioning if there’s been an increase, or just more awareness because of social media?
“I don’t want to minimize it. There’s a lot going on. It’s definitely happening more. Technology is being leveraged,” said John Godwin with the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
It’s important to note that not all cases involve foul play. Sometimes children and adults simply runaway. But in some cases, predators are using social media to target teenagers, especially with apps like Blender and Tinder, which offer GPS tracking capabilities.
Godwin suggests parents be proactive and download their own apps, designed to help them track their children in case of emergency. “There’s Net Nanny. Norton also provides a safety package. It will report the activity of what your children are doing online,” he said.
American teenagers spend about seven hours a day on devices. Experts say if they start to spend more time alone, and you see changes in behavior, it’s time to sit down and talk to them and make sure they’re not sharing information with people online.
Parents can use a combination of old school methods and new school technology. Install the apps, but also make sure you’re implementing other rules, like don’t go out alone, and getting contact information for your child’s friends and their parents.
“We’re always advocating that parents have to have open communication with their children,” Godwin said.