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Key Facts

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® gathers key facts regarding the issues of missing and sexually exploited children and Internet safety and updates these facts and statistics frequently.

Missing children

  • The most recent, comprehensive national study for the number of missing children estimated in 1999: [1]
  • Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.
  • More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
  • More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
  • An estimated 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These “stereotypical” kidnappings involved someone the child did not know or was an acquaintance. The child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently.
  • To find the number of children missing from a specific state or territory contact the state’s Missing Child Clearinghouses.
  • The first three hours are the most critical when trying to locate a missing child. The murder of an abducted child is rare, and an estimated 100 cases in which an abducted child is murdered occur in the U.S. each year. A 2006 study indicated that 76.2 percent of abducted children who are killed are dead within three hours of the abduction. [2]
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 193,705 missing children since it was founded in 1984. Our recovery rate for missing children has grown from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.
  • The AMBER Alert program was created in 1996 and is operated by the U.S. Department of Justice. As of April 2, 2014, 688 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the program. [3]
  • As of Dec. 2013, NCMEC’s toll free, 24 hour call center has received more than 3,899,964 calls since it was created in 1984. Information about missing or exploited children can be reported to the call center by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

Child sexual exploitation

  • U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a dramatic increase in cases of sexual exploitation of children since the 1990s. According to a report to Congress in 2010. [4]
  • In 2006 U.S. attorneys handled 82.8 percent more child pornography cases than they had in 1994.
  • State and local law enforcement agencies involved in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children from 2004 to 2008.
  • ICAC Task Forces noted a more than 1,000 percent increase in complaints of child sex trafficking from 2004 to 2008.
  • As of Dec. 2013, the CyberTipline has received more than 2.2 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation since it was launched in 1998. Suspected child sexual exploitation can be reported to the CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-843-5678.
  • As of Oct. 2013, NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 104 million child pornography images since it was created in 2002.

Internet safety

  • 93 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 go online.[5]
  • Of children five years old and younger who use the Internet, 80 percent use it at least once a week. [6]
  • One in 25 children ages 10 to 17 received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact.[7]
  • Four percent of cell phone owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude messages to others via text message.[8]
  • 15 percent of cell phone owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude images of someone they know via text.[9]
  • For more Internet Safety facts visit www.netsmartz.org/Safety/Statistics.

[1] Finkelhor D., Hammer H., Schultz D., Sedlak A. National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview, U.S. Department of Justice, 2002.
[2] Brown K., Keppel R., McKenna R., Skeen M., Weis J. Case Management for Missing Children Homicides: Report II, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and U.S. Department of Justice, 2006.
[3] AMBER Alert, U.S. Department of Justice.
[4] The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction: A Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Justice, 2010.
[5] Lenhart A. Social Media and Young Adults. Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2010.
[6] Gutnick A., Kotler J., Robb M., Takeuchi L. Always Connected: The new digital media habits of young children, Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 2011.
[7] Finkelhor D., Mitchell K., Wolak J., Ybarra M. Online “Predators” and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment. American Psychologist, 2008;63, 111-128.
[8] Lenhart A. Teens and Sexting. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2009.
[9] Ibid.

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