At issue: Parents, lawmakers should team up to keep kids safe online.


 

A bill given final approval by the Assembly on Monday was the missing link needed to keep online sex predators off popular social networking Web sites used by teenagers. 

The Senate passed the bill earlier this year, and it now should be signed into law by Gov. David Paterson. 

The bill, the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act, was introduced in January by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and was co-sponsored by Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome. It requires registered sex offenders to provide online screen names to state officials, who then can share those identities with teen Web hangouts like MySpace.com and Facebook.com, who are authorized to prescreen or remove offenders. It also restricts use of the Internet by certain sex offenders on probation and parole. 

The bill is a powerful weapon in the ongoing battle against Internet crime, and could become a model for other states. New York leaders are to be commended for their effort and need to continue closing loopholes that can keep our children safe because they are very much at risk when it comes to online threats. 

For instance, a survey last year of Oneida County youths in grades seven, nine and 11 found that one in five area teens say they have met someone following initial contact on the Internet. That survey — The Oneida County Teen Assessment Project — found that 36 percent of the teens surveyed said they were asked personal information while online by someone they’ve never met. 

Social networking on the Internet is not going away. While tougher laws can help fend off predators, parents, too, have a responsibility to talk with their children about Internet dangers. Remember, people who have access to your child’s pictures and personal information on Internet sites might not be a registered sex predator, but they might still pose a threat. 

In the end, monitoring Internet use, discussing “stranger danger” and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your children is the best way to protect them from people who would do them harm.

Observer-Dispatch