Virginia, Georgia and Illinois Make Strides on Internet Safety

Going to share some great developments in 3 states with you today. 2 are from last Friday, but 1 of them is from this week – and something you may have already heard about. This has been all over the news. The report here has a good video package to accompany:

Virginia First State To Make Internet Safety Classes Mandatory
By Mark Tenia

[Excerpt] Virginia is the first state to make Internet safety lessons mandatory for all grade levels. It’s just one of many steps being taken nationally in order to protect kids online.

Right now other states are considering similar legislation. Nationally Texas and Illinois have passed their own Internet safety education laws but unlike Virginia those laws don’t make the courses mandatory.

In Charlottesville at the Computers4Kids after school program, every student that comes goes through a number of Internet safety classes before they start using the computers.

Then there are these two stories as well that are good news for the respective states and the battle against online slimeballs.

State senator backs tougher law for sex predators
By David Gialanella
Illinois law enforcement officials soon may have an easier time locking up sexual predators, according to state Sen. John Millner.

Millner, R-Carol Stream, has sponsored a “grooming” bill that would make it a felony to “seduce, solicit, lure or entice” a minor — or someone believed to be a minor — via the Internet or other electronic means. Traveling to meet the minor with the intent to engage in a sex act also would be criminalized. Currently, state charges cannot be brought until an actual, physical meeting with the child occurs, according to a news release.

On April 1, SB 2382 was unanimously passed by the Illinois Senate, and is under the House’s consideration.

What the bill boils down to is codifying the intent element of a solicitation crime; intent is not yet legally presumed from measures the suspect takes to meet up with the victim, according to Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti.

SB 2382 goes a step further by creating a presumption of intent once the offender takes certain steps to arrange a rendezvous. The legislation makes traveling to meet a minor — or arranging the minor’s travel — a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in prison. Grooming would become a Class 4 felony, punishable by a one- to three-year prison term.

Currently, solicitation can lead to a charge as serious as a Class 1 felony, depending on what prosecutors can prove the offender intended to do with the victim.

Internet predator bill nears passage
By Mike Billips

The General Assembly neared final passage to a Macon lawmaker’s bill that would bring together schools, Internet service providers, the judicial system and parents to try to protect kids from Internet predators.

Senate Bill 474, sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, passed the House in a slightly amended form late Friday and was headed back to the Senate for final passage.

The bill would require the state Board of Education to come up with an age-appropriate curriculum to teach children about the potential dangers of talking to people on the Internet. It would require Internet service providers to inform parents of available monitoring and blocking software.

The bill would also allow judges to include monitoring of Internet usage as a condition of parole or probation for convicted sex offenders, Staton said.
A clause added in committee to the final version of the bill appeared to make it difficult for registered sex offenders to use e-commerce. Some 10,000 Georgians are on the list, ranging from convicted rapists and pedophiles to teenagers who committed sodomy with an underage teen.

Under the bill, when registering as sex offenders, these people would have to reveal their e-mail addresses, Internet user names and passwords. This information might be available under the Open Records Act to anyone who asks, putting registered sex offenders at risk of identity theft if they use banking or other commercial e-services.

All three states are taking great action – and as well they should. If there are laws in place to protect kids from real-life encounters, why not those in the digital world, which is quickly becoming one with the real world anyway… But remember, regardless of what the state is going to do, they still can’t be there next to the child like parents can. Ultimately, the best defense is at home with the parents… Knowledge is power. You can be a powerful 21st century parent with tools like PC Pandora monitoring software. While the states are doing what they can on the outside – do what you must on the inside! 

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