Kids Who Go Missing Have One Thing In Common

June 27, 2017
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In June 2016, 16-year-old Hailey Burns left her home in Charlotte, leaving behind a frantic family who searched for her for the last year.

Hailey was found alive this week in Georgia in the home of 31-year-old Michael Wysolovski, a man she allegedly met online.

Hailey was among the 465,676 cases of missing children reported to the FBI in 2016.

This number that has decreased significantly over the last 10 years. There were 662,228 reported cases in 2006.

Nancy McBride, the executive director of Florida Outreach at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), told USA today that the vast majority of missing children are runaways.

In 2016, NCMEC worked with law enforcement and families on more than 20,500 cases of missing young people and 90% of these cases were runaways.

One of the troubling aspects in cases of missing kids, experts say, is the number who are lured away via technology.

Around the time of her disappearance, Hailey’s family said they had tried to limit their daughter’s use of computers following the discovery she’d been talking to strangers online.

Hailey, who’s now 17, did not even have a cellphone, they said, however, they thought she was still communicating with someone and had left to meet with him.

“(Technology) has great benefits and some potential risks,” McBride said. “It’s important to stay plugged into their lives.”

When a child’s relationship with their parents isn’t strong, their communication breaks down which makes the child vulnerable to online predators, McBride said

A good relationship is very important for communication, which is important for developing trust, she said. “If something is going on, it’s important for parents to be able to tell their kids: ‘If someone approaches you and makes you feel uncomfortable, you can come to me.’ Then they can work to prevent a situation.”

McBride doesn’t think cutting the child off from social media is the answer. “Kids are going to do it anyway,” she said.

Talk it out with them,” she said. “Get your kids to show them where they like to go (online). Talk to them about how the dangers in the virtual world can translate into the real world.”

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