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John Walsh, Facebook and Protecting Our Children

Facebook and Amber Alerts create a partnership that's a "game changer."

John Walsh

By now we all know that social media can be used for good or evil. I came across something this week that was definitely good.

Most of you know John Walsh, host of CNN’s The Hunt and an advocate for missing children. His interest is more than professional. In 1981 his six-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and subsequently found murdered in Florida. That sort of tragedy would change any parent’s life.

John WalshIn John’s case, it transformed him into the country’s most prominent advocate for the rights of crime victims and their families. Eventually he helped create the long-running TV show America’s Most Wanted, which resulted in the capture of more than 1,200 fugitives.

This week Facebook, in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, announced that it would issue Amber Alerts on users’ newsfeeds. John Walsh called this a “game-changer” in the fight to protect our children.

Since 1996 Amber Alerts, named after another abducted and murdered child, Amber Hagerman, have gone out over traditional media wherever a child goes missing and is suspected of being abducted.

You’ve probably heard them on your car radio or seen them on TV. They’re accompanied by a picture of the child and other details of the disappearance and provide contact info if you have a lead or a tip. In many cases, the smallest tip delivered quickly has saved a child’s life.    

For John Walsh this is another way of honoring Adam. He has twice appeared on the cover of Guideposts. I feel a kinship of sorts with John. (Here's one of our stories on John.)

I was nine when my 12-year-old Down Syndrome brother, Bobby, disappeared. I remember the media parked on our front lawn that night, the cops handing out flyers the next day and my parents interviewed on the local news the day after that pleading for information on my brother. By then it was too late, as we found out many weeks later.

Who knows if an Amber Alert would have saved Bobby or Adam? There are more than 180 million Americans on Facebook. Amber Alerts will only be issued regionally. You can delete the post if you want. Just please don’t ignore it. A child’s life might depend on it.   

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