As the new school year kicks off around the country, the FBI is encouraging parents to use its child ID app to prepare in advance in case the worst happens and one of their children goes missing or is abducted.
The app, introduced by the FBI in 2011, allows parents to upload identifying information about their children and store in on their phone as they would a contact's name and details.
It is a digital version of a kit that the FBI made available to parents in 2006 through the National Child Identification Program. The app, much like the physical version, allows parents to fill out a form with identifying information including a child's picture.
Having such information already stored can help authorities in the early, critical stages of an investigation, Steve Lewis with FBI Public Affairs told ABC News.
"Within that initial period of time when a child is abducted it is crucial to send information to law enforcement," Lewis said. "The app has the ability to send that information through email," he said, which could potentially get important details to law enforcement agencies more quickly.
An advocate for missing children said parents often become frantic in such a situation and may in the heat of the moment forget certain details about their child.
"When a child goes missing, they are frantic and in a state of shock," Callahan Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told ABC New.
The child ID app lets parents "put in the information when stress levels are low," Walsh said, noting that his organization also has an app.
Lewis emphasized that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies cannot access any of the information on the app unless parents push the send button.
"The FBI is not storing any photos or information you enter in the app. All of that data resides solely on your mobile device unless you need to send it to authorities," Lewis said.
The app also includes tips for parents to help protect their children in case they get lost or otherwise go missing.
"Make sure that your child knows his/her full name, your full name, your address and your telephone numbers, including area codes," the first tip says.
Another suggestion is for children to know how to use a phone and how to call 911.