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What to do if your teenager is missing

Are you worried about a teenager who could have run away, or could be thinking about it? We've brought together help and advice from Mumsnetters, with tips from international children's charity Railway Children and the police on what your first actions should be. 

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jun 4, 2021

Missing Teen

If you're concerned that your teenager may be thinking of running away, make sure you check the warning signs.

And remember, you're not alone - you can get advice and support on the Mumsnet Talk boards

What to do if your teenager is missing? 

If you think that your teenager has run away, and you can't get in touch with them, the main thing is to try not to go into meltdown. Teenagers are prone to strops and storming out, so, difficult as it may sound, do your best not to jump to any worst-case conclusions, as the vast majority of child runaways return safely.

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Here are some of the suggestions Mumsnetters have made, as well as advice from Railway Children, as to how to respond if your child runs away.

  • Ring around their friends and see if your teen is there. Ask to speak to the friends' parents, too. 
  • As soon as you're sure your teenager is missing, contact your local police as soon as possible by dialing 101. (The 24-hour waiting period doesn't exist for under-18s.)
  • Phone the school and see if it can shed any light on new friends your child might have been hanging around with, or places they might have been going. You can also ask the school if they can tell you if any of your teenager's friends are also absent that day
  • Have a look at your child's Facebook wall (if they have one) to see if there's any information there, or check their internet history for clues. 
  • Send a text message that reassures your teenager the situation can be resolved, and letting them know you love them, to encourage them to get in touch. Avoid angry or confrontational messages.
  • Spread the word to as many people as possible that your teenager is missing.
  • Make a note of any of their clothes or personal items that are missing.

What happens when you report someone as missing to the police?

The police will take a report from you, enter the information into their system and circulate the person as 'missing'.

If the person can't be found by the immediate enquiries made by the Initial Investigating Officer, an officer within the police station will look after the case. This will include checking to make sure they have all the details.

Things you may be asked for include

  • Details of the missing teenager's friends or relatives
  • Places they're known to frequent
  • Any health or medical conditions they have
  • Recent photographs
  • Recent events that could be connected to their decision to run away
  • A DNA sample (from a toothbrush, for instance)

Officers will ask for consent to search your home for any more evidence or leads as to why your teen may have gone, which is normal procedure. They will also ask for you to consent to make public the fact that your teenager is missing.