ART BY ESTELLE ZHOU
Time and time again, faces of innocent missing children splash across our screens, victims in the latest stranger abductions. As parents search desperately in the streets and police officers scramble to connect the dots, we sit at home and carelessly flip to the next channel.
American citizens are quickly becoming desensitized to the many photos of missing children that cover our cities. In the United States alone, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, approximately 150 children are abducted annually, yet only ten will briefly make it on the news. Why, then, are we not treating these cases equally when the least we do for these children is give them a voice?
Our nation is not only divided by its parties, but also by its lack of concern for the thousands of missing children that do not get the chance to grace news headlines. It is time for America to change our “at least it is not me” attitude towards missing children by shifting our view of technology and our parenting styles.
Today, children have access to social media, dating apps and potentially dangerous untraceable online chats. Older generations often recall the “good ol’ days” when parents rarely worried about the well being of their children while they roamed free. That is, until a damp morning in May 1938 marked a “stranger danger” era in history.
Eighty years ago, Marjorie West, a little red-headed four-year-old, vanished while at a Mother’s Day picnic in the forest with her family. Such an unforeseen incident spurred a rush of paranoia and caution that remains in our everyday lives. Yet, despite preaching the importance of avoiding strangers, it seems the opposite is true online.
The question remains, exactly how cautious should parents be about their children’s activities? On one hand, technology has increased the rate of solved cases dramatically by implementing amber alerts and trackers. However, as access to the internet increases so does the possibility of children being unsuspectingly stalked or worse, lured into a kidnapping.
Are these children all victims of sex traffickers, and malicious kidnappers or are there other factors at work? Lawmakers and children rights activists bring up this very question to a point where missing children are becoming a long overdue topic.
Only a week ago, 3 year- old Casey Hathaway faced a tragedy that thousands of missing American children face every day. Disappearing amidst terror and confusion, Hathaway was found alive after a three-day, harrowing search. Though the story may be heartbreaking, the sad reality is that any attention over a missing child case dies as instantly as it is publicized.
In communities across the nation, faces of missing children cover buildings and supermarket walls, to no avail. Especially in the case of children, it is easy for local citizens to assume that there is no need to get involved when the authorities have got it covered. Yet, with one in every ten American children being exploited or kidnapped, it is astonishingly clear that authorities are making little to no impact on this issue. For too long, we have relied entirely on unqualified police to handle these important cases.
It is absurd just how many local police decline federal help, claiming that they can handle the situation when in reality, they can not. Anyone paying attention to the news can see that most missing children are not from big cities, but little towns, which already lack attention without the tragedies of missing children. Cases remain unsolved, criminals roam the streets, and our nation simply watches.
Our blindness to the reality that missing children have to deal with today perfectly exemplifies the wave of apathy rippling across American society. We put our trust into the police; yet, as a result local enforcements have false confidence in themselves.
No doubt, an appalling lack of media attention is heavily contributing towards the increasing number of missing children. Without media pressure, most officers will not even look into a child’s case despite the circumstances. In fact, near the beginning of 2017, Chanel Dickerson, commander of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, launched a #MissingDCGirls on Twitter to find any “local” children. Still, there is not enough being done by social media and law enforcement, outlets that are supposedly meant to keep everyone in our nation safe. So, why are so many children being ignored, despite the roles that officers are expected to fill? One thing is clear: authorities, as well as parents, must get more involved in the lives of missing children.
This is not to say that law enforcers and parents are not trying to find a solution to this social dilemma. Most parents would give their lives for their children, and yet many of their cries go unheard. The reality is, there will be those miracle cases where lost children are found. But that doesn’t account for the pain and loss that parents feel.
One missing child is always one too many.
It is vital that we step up our efforts to relieve the suffering of so many people and to address one of the most complex, challenging and under-reported humanitarian problems in the world today. Behind every missing person poster, every headline, is an individual story and a family experiencing heartache. Citizens in America need to make an effort to realize that by ignoring these missing children, they are halting society’s growth.
No child in our nation should never be invisible in plain sight.