We get a lot of teen runaway cases here in my office, and the majority of them start with online connections. Social media, to be exact. Teens get emotional and go through a lot of internal thought rearranging during their high school years. When kids experience emotions that feel overwhelming or very big, they commonly react in ways that are not considerate of logic or safety, and that’s pretty normal.
It’s Not Just Teens Meeting Predators Online and Running Away
I would also like to mention that although it used to be mainly teenagers meeting people online and running away, the age range has expanded into kids as young as 10 years old. In the past, it was generally a “teen thing” when it came to runaways. But today, young kids have access to their own devices, their own smartphones and iPads/tablets, and are exposed to more things in the adult world than in the past.
Basically, due to technology kids are growing up a lot younger and a lot faster these days. Just because your child is only 10 years old, it doesn’t mean they are not unknowingly chatting with adult predators who are posing as teens or their peers. So much can happen in the mind of a 10 year old that we need to be aware of their lives and online behavior.
Here are some things to know:
- The friends of the runaway generally know more than they are telling. A lot of times, kids take their friend’s side and don’t tell the parents or authorities what they really know about their friend and their whereabouts. They don’t want to snitch. Also, the friends don’t want to get their friend in trouble or have to be the one that has to deal with the police.
- The friends of the runaway are intimidated. They know that they may get in trouble for not telling what they know, and they may also get in trouble for telling what they do know. It’s really important to integrate someone who is not the police and who knows how to make them feel comfortable to talk and not get into trouble.
- Digital evidence is key. There are a lot of clues and intel that we can gather from an iPhone, an Android, an iPad, a laptop or computer…this is a major part of any investigation where the runaway was using social media for communication. We have powerful data recovery software and hardware, which we actively engage on such cases.
- There are signs. Think back and try to remember if there were signs that your teenager was unhappy, depressed, said things that were suspicious, if there were certain days and times that they did questionable things, if they were up late at night talking to someone on the phone, and how they acted the few days before they run away.
- What they take with them, and what they don’t, matters. Did your teenager take their phone? Did they take certain clothing? Did they leave meaningful jewelry behind? Did they leave a note? What did the note say? These are all very important clues that we work from on an investigation on a teenage runaway.
- Siblings often have good insight. A lot of the time, siblings are reluctant to tell what they know, for many reasons. They don’t want to get their brother or sister in trouble, they don’t actually realize the severity of the situation, or they don’t think something that happened was important when in fact it is. It helps to try to get them to think back to anything their sibling said or did that was strange or out of character.
If you have a child that has run away and you want professionals to work with the police in getting your child faster, call us. We have over 30 years of experience finding missing children and runaways.
Call us today 424.284.8262
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