We spend a great deal of time teaching kids not to share too much personal information online. But sometimes when they ignore us, the Internet can be used as a tool to find them. Parental abductions, stranger abductions and runaway cases can easily be often solved by searching for that kid on popular websites and social networks.
While the abductor may convince the child to change their last name, the child may still want to frequent their favorite sites and networks. Even if they understand or have been convinced of the risks of disclosing their true identity to anyone, they may be reluctant to give up those points they earned on their favorite game sites or end longterm online friendships.
Recently a missing/runaway children's group contacted me seeking help in locating a runaway they had spotted on myspace. The group informed me that the leading missing and runaway children groups had failed to take any action. I pointed them to the right people at myspace and the child was recovered.
Recently the young teen who had been abducted years ago was found, only to discover that he had a posting online, using his real first name and the assumed last name of his abductor.
When seeking someone online, try their real first name and interests. Nicknames may be continued to be used as well. Look for birthdates, birthplaces and favorite websites and games.
If you find them online, do not reach out to communicate with them until law enforcement has been contacted and has the information they need to locate them offline. If they need help reaching the right person at the site, have them contact me.
This is one time that kids sharing too much info online can be a good thing.