MorganNickFoundation TwitterAvatarYou see the posters on the walls at local businesses. The faces of children whose parents wish they can hold once more. You've shared, or a friend has shared, the picture and physical description of a child reported missing from their home. Many of you also remember the tragic story:

"On the evening of June 9, 1995, Morgan Chauntel Nick was kidnapped while playing with friends just yards away from her mother during a little league game in Alma, Arkansas."

It was the case that brought national attention and a year later the Morgan Nick Foundation was launched to help find all missing children. But did you know that they also work tirelessly to prevent future child abductions?Missing 3SMALLLLLLLLLL

Genevie Strickland, Case Manager/Director of Education for the Morgan Nick Foundation, works with numerous families and law enforcement officials in the search for missing children. She shares vital information about the missing children in every way possible - press releases to the media, printing posters of the lost, and posting and sharing information online/social media.

But prevention education is the primary focus of work, she said, and primarily she speaks to students at schools throughout the state of Arkansas.

"Each year in the U.S. more than 800,000 kids go missing, which is an average of 2,000 kids a day," Strickland said. "Most of the kids reported missing is due to something they were doing on social media. They think they know how to be safe, that they know what they are doing, and often times they think they know more than we [parents] do."

"They think they have it under control. We go in an explain that there are a lot of kids in trouble and it mostly relates back to their internet/social media use. We explain to them that they may not know what they are doing and how to be safe, or if they do know, THEY ARE NOT APPLYING IT. We believe that education is empowering. If you understand, if you are educated on the subject, you can make wise decisions.”


Mrs. Strickland said most kids know the basic information about internet safety, about how they should not give out personal information. However, she said kids can inadvertently give out personal information. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, or a host of other apps, there are dangers lurking everywhere. Do you know them all?

“We talk to them about some of the dangers that they are not thinking about,” Strickland said. “One trend among kids is who can have the most followers. They think it makes them more popular or makes them look good, but what that does is give people they don’t know more access to their information, including pictures, videos, and personal information.”

Strickland said there are many hidden dangers in apps as well, and the popularity of specific apps change frequently. She said a specific app can be popular among kids today “and in two weeks they’ll be using some other app.”

“I hope that parents understand that as well, because it changes so quickly and you have to stay on top of it all the time,” Strickland said. “A lot of kids and adults don’t understand the danger in the apps, and if you don’t understand those dangers than you are probably not protecting yourself. We are not saying all these apps are bad, there are good things in them, but there are some loopholes in them that kids and parents may not realize.”

She said many apps have the use of private chatrooms or direct messaging capability.

“We get a lot of reports of kids being sent pornographic images or being asked to go into a private chatroom to speak with someone they don’t know,” Strickland said. “That’s dangerous.”

“As much as we go over this with kids, it is still surprising how easy it is to sway them and how much they believe what you tell them.”

Strickland said that kids will tell her they know not to talk online with someone they don’t know. But when she asks if they have talked to those unknown people, they often reply “Yeah.”Zalerts

“I ask them how many times they’ve been online and someone they don’t know has tried to send them a message? Almost 100 percent say it happens,” She said. “I’ll then ask what they do about it? Some say they talk to them, some say they ignored them, some say they blocked them, but they are still not handling it like they necessarily need to be.”

Strickland tells the kids in that situation that they, number 1, don’t accept a profile/friendship online from an unknown person and they should also block them. She said they also strongly encourage the kids to tell a parent or trusted adult.

“They may ask why then need to tell an adult when they did the other things, and we tell them because that person is still out there,” Strickland said. “And if they aren’t going after you, they’re going after someone else. What if that ends up being your little brother or sister? Or a friend or a friend’s little brother or sister?”

She added, “We tell kids that an adult should never come to you with questions, ever. They shouldn’t be asking you for directions, to ask for help, they need to go to an adult.”

Strickland said the internet can be a great tool, but parents and kids have to be educated on the dangers it poses.

“I go into kindergarten classrooms where the majority of kids have cellphones with internet accessibility,” She said. “It’s like putting a time bomb in a kid’s hand. Some parents that tell us they don’t have internet at home, but the kids have internet access at school, at a library which isn’t monitored, at a friend’s house or a lot of other places.”

“Our goal isn’t to scare you, it is to educate you. It is to empower you to understand what you are facing that can help you make smarter choices. We also want to help kids and parents to have solutions so they know how to handle a situation.”