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abducted-children Want to learn how you can become a hero some day? Try using the new mobile Amber Alerts that are available for mobile phones across the world. When I was a kid, I remember dreaming about being a superhero. Then, as I got older, I was content with become a police officer – I mean, those guys are the real heros, right? Eventually, I became content with just becoming a computer programmer sitting behind a desk all day – what happened?

The fact is, everyone has a little bit of that longing to become a hero, no matter how old you are. You’d like to save someone’s life, and reach your final day knowing that at least once in the many years you’ve spent on this earth, you made a real difference in someone’s life. Now, with the new mobile amber alerts provided to cellular providers by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more people than ever before have an opportunity to become a real life hero.

Why Using Mobile Amber Alerts is So Important

According to the FBI crime statistics for the U.S., reported kidnappings in that country rose from 154,341 in 1982 up to an astonishing 876,213 in 2000. The scariest part of those statistics is the fact that almost 90% of those abductions are children under 18 years old. The kidnapping rates throughout the rest of the world are quite as bad as in the United States, but the potential for child abductions demands that all countries should strive toward an automated system of mobile amber alerts so that all citizens can help in the fight to stop child kidnapping.

kidnapped

While the problem may be mostly in America, other countries are taking a stand against child abductions with their own Amber Alert systems, such as Australia in 2003, various regions of Canada from 2002 through 2004, France and the UK in 2006, as well as France, Greece, the Netherlands and additional countries every year. The most promising technological advance from the Amber Alert System is a mobile alert system created through a joint partnership between the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, The Wireless Foundation, Amber Alert, the Department of Justice and the Ad Council. Signing up your mobile device couldn’t be easier.

how to become a hero

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It’s as simple as going to the WirelessAmberAlerts website and typing in your wireless phone number. Once you do, you’ll start receiving wireless SMS messages to your phone whenever there’s a missing child alert for your local area. The system doesn’t charge anything for the messages, and most mobile phone carriers waive SMS message fees when you receive Amber Alert messages (but check with your carrier to be sure).

Are there Other Options to Receive Mobile Amber Alerts?

While the system above will work perfectly for anyone with a cellphone that can receive SMS messages, there’s a fair population of mobile users who don’t, or can’t, receive SMS messages. iPhone users have a solution in the form of a cool iPhone application that’s available for free at the iPhone store. However, other mobile users, such as Windows Mobile or Blackberry don’t really have the option of downloading a specific application yet. However, thanks to Google, both mobile and PC users have a way to receive Amber Alerts wherever they are.  At the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, you can download a gadget that you can embed on your blog or any web page, such as your own mobile web page that you can access with your phone, that will print updates form the Amber Alert system.

iGoogle Gadget

On your iGoogle page, you can also install the Amber Alert widget so that the Amber Alerts are displayed alongside your calendar, email, and weather.

Alerts in Google

Follow Mobile Amber Alerts, and You Might Be a Hero

There may come a day when you’re driving along on the highway, and you receive an SMS update from the Amber Alert system that notifies all local mobile users to be on the lookout for a black sedan with a particular license plate number. You quickly realize that the car in front of you is the suspect kidnapper’s car. You pass the car, and peek into the back window. Through the foggy glass, you see the small face of a scared child staring back at you. Realizing that your moment of truth has come, you glance back down at the callback number on the Amber Alert message and quickly dial the number. Barely ten minutes later, the blue lights appear and the car is stopped. You’ve just saved the life of an abducted child. You are a hero.

Would you ever consider adding the Amber Alerts to your phone? What would you do if you spotted an abducted child from a mobile alert message? Share your opinions about this system in the comments section below.

  1. Ryan Dube
    May 4, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for the feedback guys...didn't realize there were people out there who take issue with a system set up to save children's lives, if it's possible. :) I'll keep that in mind with future articles. ;)

    • Patrick
      May 5, 2009 at 4:54 am

      I appreciate you commenting on this, Ryan.

      Questioning the system obviously can't be equated with not caring about saving children's lives. And even if we reference personal experiences with abductions, the question is whether the Amber system would have (or has) done anything about them.
      The point here is: 1) the Amber system sucks up resources (not necessarily money, but personel and public attention) that could be employed in other ways, including those that save children's lives, too. 2) the system induces widespread fear (in parents and kids) about something that is very, very unlikely to happen to a child, as opposed to a plethora of things that *are* likely to happen, but noone talks about (like that driving in a car is the number 1 killer of kids, or that initiatives promoting wearing a bike helmet could save a lot more lives).

      Here's a Boston Globe article about the Amber system:
      http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/07/20/abducted/?page=1

      • Ryan Dube
        May 5, 2009 at 3:56 pm

        Hi Patrick - thanks for your comments, and excellent points. I do see what you're saying, and can certainly appreciate the danger of having a system that's overly costly and inefficient (and induces fear, as you mention as well), however on the flip side, it's hard to slam a system if it has the capability to save even while child's life. Could it work better or more efficiently - yeah, I think you and others here have certainly made that point well. I honestly didn't realize there was such a concern about the Amber system - but the info you've all provided was helpful...I'm certainly a bit more educated about the Amber System now. Thanks everyone.

  2. Dylan
    May 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Glad I'm not the only one who was going to link to the Cracked article.

  3. LJ
    May 4, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    This system is totally ineffective, the statistics reported are a joke. Most of these "abducted" children have in fact just been reported missing by a parent because they went to play at a friends house or similar without telling mommy

    • Ryan Dube
      May 4, 2009 at 5:43 pm

      LJ - thanks for the feedback, do you have documentation to support that most children reported abducted were falsely reported? I'd like to see that.

  4. Lou Carey
    May 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Couldn't you have just called this article "How To Help Find Abducted Children using Mobile Amber Alerts" to promote helping others rather than promoting heroism? This would make it about others rather than self.

    Just a thought.

  5. Patrick
    May 4, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Sorry, but as the commenter above me has pointed out, this system does pretty much nothing about the actual problem.

    What it *does* do however, is add to the incessant scaremongering (about kids' safety in particular) that's going on everywhere - just take a look at the numbers of "abductions", for example, and tell me why the US with five times the population of the UK supposedly has 269 times the abductions... someone has to re-read their statistics.

    • Ryan Dube
      May 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

      Thanks Patrick - you're right, the European statistics came from a different source and seem a bit low, but I think that's just the scale...in other words the time period that the numbers represent, I might have gotten that off. I do believe the US numbers are accurate though - and troubling. I know a number of families who've had their kids abducting (in one case a girl was murdered) - so I find the attitude above disturbing - toward a system that is at least attempting to engage the public in staying vigilant against the sort of people who would do this.

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