Nov 1, 2012

Apps that Can Help When Your Child Goes Missing

The recent child abductions in Colorado and New Jersey raise important questions about how to best assist law enforcement in locating and rescuing missing children.  According to a survey released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, not enough parents in the United States know vital statistics about their kids, including height, hair color, eye color, weight, etc.  Young children change in physical appearance so rapidly that parents often struggle to keep up with this information.   In a time of crisis, a panicked parent may labor even more to accurately recall and disseminate these vital details to authorities.

For law enforcement, the first few hours in the case of any missing minor represent the most crucial in finding a child alive.  An accurate physical description and a recent photograph potentially make the difference between a search-and-rescue effort and a search-and-recover effort.  For years, some parents provided ID cards for children with everything from vital statistics to DNA identified on the card.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently took this process one step further with its release of the Child ID iPhone app. The first-ever mobile app released by the FBI allows parents to input and store information about their child’s appearance and send this information directly from the app to law enforcement during a crisis.

Although the app itself does not offer password protection or fingerprint storing capability, parents may use the existing iPhone password locking and image storage capabilities to safely maintain essential data about their children on cellphones. The National Child Identification Program offers an inkless fingerprint identification kit for parents to take and store their child’s fingerprints at home.  Parents may then scan and upload the image to their mobile device.

The Child ID app represents just one example in a series of electronic identification and tracking tools aimed at protecting children.  For example, the Insignia Little Buddy Tracker allows parents to locate their children at all times using a smartphone or computer through GPS technology.  The Lookout app provides cellphone tracking even on turned off devices or phones with depleted batteries.  The Nu.m8+ Tracker Watch provides similar tracking through a wearable accessory.  These devices offer parents increased opportunities to monitor the whereabouts of their children with potential life-saving results in crisis situations.