It used to be that if a child went missing, his or
her image would be posted on telephone poles, neighborhood gathering
places and parking lots.
But now, people are using Facebook — the
social-networking website that connects millions through photos and
commentary — as a tool in the search for their missing loved ones.
“One of six children is located because someone recognizes them in a photograph,” said
“But with more than 500 million active users on Facebook, that
statistic is greatly enhanced when someone creates a page for a missing
Friends of 16-year-old
“We look at that information here at the center, but
we also know that law-enforcement gleans what they can from those pages
for their investigations,” Shehan said. “If parents are managing the
Facebook site, it also gives them comfort that they are actively
The missing-children’s center has taken 3,464 active cases of missing children since
Social-service agencies in
Officials at Facebook did not return calls from the
for this story, so it is unclear how many pages for missing or
exploited children are on the site; however, a search for “missing
children” shows thousands of hits.
One of the first Facebook pages created for a missing person was in 2007 for
The case garnered national media attention, and
nearly 3,000 Facebook users identify themselves as friends of the “Help
Find Missing Jennifer Kesse” page, which contains several pictures and
a description of her.
“It absolutely helps,” said
her father. “If we can get another eye to look at that website, then it
means another person now knows her face and can help in the search.
It’s total awareness that reaches a network of millions of people.”
The family of
Haleigh Cummings” Facebook page, said she has added pictures of the
missing girl to her own page and her friends have done the same with
the hope of finding the child.
“It think that when you have something that is so
good at connecting friends who have not seen each other or family who
are separated by thousands of miles, why not use it to find missing
children?” Russell said.
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