There may be no experience more terrifying than losing your child. As a parent you always make it your top priority to keep your child safe, to raise him to be aware of his surroundings and approach the world with a cautious but open mind. So if your child disappears one day, you know what follows is a terror that can freeze you in your tracks. But thanks to social media, even panicked parents have a quick and easy resource on their hands that can see them reunited with their children faster and with a greater chance of success than ever before.
About a year and a half ago the Loftis family experienced just such a situation, when thirteen-year-old Allie Loftis ran away from home. Although Tony Loftis and his family live in a quiet suburb, Allie was spotted for the last time getting on a bus in Boston, heading towards New York. Tony tried to comfort himself with the hope that Allie was heading towards family they had in Brooklyn, but that didn’t end up being the case. So instead of sitting back and waiting for the police to go through the motions, Tony hit up his social networks.
He posted constantly about the search for Allie on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. A couple days into the search, Tony’s efforts came to the attention of editors at The New York Daily News, The Huffington Post and the Boston Herald. On top of that he was also interviewed on four separate television networks. Twelve days into the search and after Tony’s final television appearance Allie was found. She was bunked up with a man who had been convicted of a sexual felony, living in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Tony was obviously relieved that his daughter was alive, and immediately got her the care and attention she needed. But after this experience he couldn’t see just going back into his normal life. He wanted to bridge the gap between parents and the organizations that handle missing persons cases, by organizing a standardized social media outreach program. So along with a handful of other parents and social media professionals, Tony put together a detailed guidebook that would help anyone who needed it to search for their missing children with the power of social media. The twenty-four page guide was published in the fall of last year, and its success led Tony to create the Find Your Missing Child organization, which is now his full-time career.
Through Find Your Missing Child, Tony has realized that the current generation of parents is far more savvy with social media than the organizations designed to help them find their missing children. His startup provides detailed resources these organizations can use, as well as references and a blog for police departments and the families of these endangered children. Tony now suggests that any parent beginning a missing person search should launch new social media accounts and a separate email to funnel everything through. That way the inundation of messages will be more manageable. For parents it’s a way to increase their involvement and stave off that feeling of powerlessness. Just keep in mind that people online will certainly share their opinions, and they won’t always be kind. But according to the University of Florida and other recent studies more than 90% of missing children do end up at home. So advocate tirelessly for your child, and hopefully your family will end up a part of that majority.