How Has Social Media Impacted Missing Persons Cases?

Josie Offt, Staff Reporter

  Every year, close to 600,000 people go missing in the United States. The first 72 hours are crucial for a missing persons case, since investigators say it’s more likely to follow up on leads when information is fresh on people’s brains. If the person is thought to have been abducted or murdered, that’s when it comes time for search parties and alerting the media. Sometimes, getting the word out to social media that a person is missing is all that can be done. According to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in an article by Your Basin, social media has been a game changer. Since everyone has access at their fingertips, it’s an easy way to share and spread information.

           Children who are kidnapped are usually murdered within the first three hours to two days, so alerting the media is key to locating the child. Amber Alerts are a broadcast emergency response created after Amber Hagerman, a nine year old girl was kidnapped and brutally murdered in 1996. They are only used for the most serious child abduction cases. Dr. Michelle Jeanis said in an ABC News article, “There is a specific criteria for the level of danger the case must meet to warrant the alert.” Jeanis and her team say if too many Amber Alerts are issued, they could be ignored. According to Amber Alert reports, nearly 7 in 10 children are found and reunited with their families.

          Aside from an Amber Alert, there are five others that could be issued. These include a Clear Alert, a Silver Alert, an Endangered Missing Persons Alert, a Camo Alert, and a Blue Alert. Typically, these alerts focus on the elderly and adults. Not only does social media spread alerts, but can spread updates and awareness of missing persons who weren’t as fortunate, either never found or found dead. People are encouraged to always read before they share any information, as it could be old or not reliable, which creates chaos and confusion. Overall, social media has been a very effective source in finding missing persons and sharing information on their cases.