How to Find a Missing Teenager


It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Your child is missing. What happens next could be the most significant moment of your life – for better or worse.

The good news is most missing children are found within 24 hours. And if the child is an adolescent, chances are they left on their own in an act of teenage rebellion. The odds they’ve been kidnapped or harmed are low.

With that said, the parents of missing teens won’t rest until their child is found alive and well. While the unfortunate reality is there are no guarantees you will find your missing teenager, the following serves as an effective checklist for putting the odds in your favor.

Contact law enforcement

Forget what movies and television have taught you. There’s no time limit for reporting missing children. While the police are unlikely to launch a citywide dragnet unless there’s evidence of foul play, alerting them to the presence of a missing youth will mean officers have the information they need to start searching. It’s not uncommon for missing teens to get picked up by police within a few hours since most are not actively trying to avoid authorities and therefore make themselves easy to spot on the street.

Ask their friends

Parents of teenagers should always have a way to contact their friends in an emergency. Since runaway teenagers often make their plans known to their closest companions, asking them about your child’s whereabouts could prove to be an easy and effective way to find them. If friends are reluctant to speak up, go to their parents to see if they’re willing to push further than you can. More times than not, well-intentioned friends will crack under pressure and point you in the right direction.

Talk with their teachers

Troubled teenagers often confide in their favorite teachers. You may uncover a clue to their whereabouts by talking with their teachers. For instance, maybe they recall a recent discussion on the merits of the local zoo or museum. Such a lead is worth exploring.

Distribute posters

If your teenager remains missing for longer than a day, start distributing posters featuring recently-taken high-resolution color photos of their face. Hand them out to passersby, staple them to light posts, and place them on poster boards in shops and stores across town. But instead of including your personal contact information, direct people to contact the local police. Doing so limits your exposure to heartless scam artists looking for a way to make a sleazy buck by pretending to be kidnappers demanding a ransom.

Rent a billboard

In the unlikely event your teenager remains missing for longer than a week, consider extending your awareness campaign to include billboards in nearby major cities. Parents can rent a billboard in Atlanta or Chicago overlooking the interstate and use it as a massive missing person poster. Thousands of people will drive by every day; one of them might know where to find your missing teenager.

Hire a private investigator

If weeks turn into months, consider hiring a private investigator. While the local police are certainly doing what they can, the priority placed on runaway teens is low unless there’s evidence of a crime. A private detective will devote themselves to tracking down your missing teenager. Even if they’re unsuccessful in uncovering their current whereabouts, a private investigator should determine if your teenager is safe or not. Knowing they’re alive, even if they remain unaccounted for, is better than never knowing what happened to them.

Keep accounts open

If your teenager decides to run away without telling you, chances are you’ll be upset at them. Your first instinct might be to cancel their phone service and bar their access to banking to force them to come home. However, this can backfire by preventing them from leaving behind digital breadcrumbs. If you let them use their phone and debit card, you can monitor activity and zero in on their location.

Finding out your child is missing is every parent’s worst fear. While it’s always a scary and stressful event, teenage runaway cases tend to get resolved with the teen returning home safe and sound. But since that’s small comfort to parents worried sick, taking action is expected. Doing the right things at the right time increases the odds of a good outcome.

Julie Steinbeck is a freelance writer from Florida. She enjoys covering topics related to family, business, and travel.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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