The thought of a child or teen going missing speaks to the depth of every parents worst fear. Because most adults care deeply about the safety and well being of kids, when a news story surfaces about a missing child most people tune in to read or listen more. Media research validates the more sensational the missing child story, the more high profile the story becomes and the more readers, viewers and listeners it will attract.
Similarly, the more coverage or over-coverage of a sensational story, the more it distorts the public’s perception of the frequency of the crime, the type of offenders committing the crimes or what types of kids are most often victimized.
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According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the thousands of children who go missing each year due to non-family abductions or “seductions” are most often 11-17 year old, minority girls (NISMART I & II studies). Yet oddly enough, the vast majority of media stories related to missing child/teens are related to missing “blue-eyed blondes.”
The bottom line is that ALL missing children and teens are important and need our help. No matter what the nationality, gender, or circumstances are, the media, public and law enforcement need to do everything possible to find help find missing kids and then return them to safety.
As a society, we need to look deeper into the reasons behind the disparity and inconsistency of media coverage in regards to missing kids. It is both unsettling and challenging to determine why this is the case, but the public discourse on this sensitive realization is long overdue. Blue-eyed blondes do not take precedence over brown-eyed, brown-haired kids whose skin color may differ.
We often hear people ask, “What greater priority is there than kids?” Yet our actions often tell a different story. When we turn a deaf ear, blind eye or indifferent attitude toward the heinous acts done to kids within our midst, then our actions illustrate a more unsettling reality: kids are truly not being treated as a priority.
Today more than ever, kids need adults to help them be safe when they venture out or when they’re online. No matter how much a child or teen feels invincible, we must stay connected to them and help protect their innocence. A kid’s only job is to be a kid……..
Nancy Sabin is executive director of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.