/// How Social Media Can Reunite Lost Children With Their Families
In November 2011, Tony Loftis’s 13-year-old daughter Allie ran away from their suburban hometown of Wayland, Mass. Allie was last seen boarding a Peter Pan bus to New York from downtown Boston, and Loftis assumed she’d headed to Brooklyn where Allie had frequently visited family.
Not a stranger to social media, Loftis took it upon himself to spread word that he was looking for his daughter on email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
“We tweeted the heck out of it,” Loftis told Mashable.
After a few days, Allie’s story was picked up by The Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, the Boston Herald and four TV stations. On day 12, following a live TV appearance, Loftis received word that Allie had been found living with a sexual predator in Jersey City.
“Once we found my daughter, got her situated and started her in the recovery process, we wanted to organize a way to help parents of missing children use social media,” Loftis said. “There certainly was a gap in missing persons organizations’ knowledge. They weren’t skilled in how to use social media, so we started writing the document.”
Luftis, with the help of others, completed a 24-page guide to using social media to find missing children in September 2012. Later, he launched the organization Find Your Missing Child, which he now works on full time.
“Not enough parents are employing social media,” Luftis says. “One reason is because we’re just starting to get a generation of parents that have used social media as part of their lives. The organizations that the parents of the 1.6 million kids who go missing each year deal with don’t know how to use social media themselves.”
Find Your Missing Child includes a blog and resources for families, police units and other organizations.
Lutfis advises parents to create separate email, Facebook and Twitter accounts for their search. For parents, he says, email’s the best way to reach the largest number of people.
“Parents find it unbelievably calming to be involved in a way that doesn’t disturb the police’s campaign, because you can do something every single second you’re awake that actively leads to bringing your child home,” he says. “Other people will notice your effort and when the police realize that other people care it gets them more motivated.”
However, Luftis warns that there won’t be a shortage of criticism toward your child and your parenting.
“You need people to know that you are a good parent and that your kid is a good kid,” he says. “The anonymity that social media gives to people to make comments is absolutely scary.”
Once children go missing, Luftis tells parents to start writing everything down, from who they speak with to what they last remember their child wearing. The whole ordeal, he says, quickly becomes overwhelming.
Luftis also reminds parents of more a comforting fact: He says about 97% of children who go missing do return home.
“You’re your child’s best advocate. You can unleash people in your network to find your missing child.”