Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today announced Senate passage of legislation that would provide additional protection for children who use the Internet. The legislation, whichhas been passed by the Assembly and is now awaiting Governor Eliot Spitzer's approval, would change current New York State law by making the penalty for sending sexually explicit e-mails that contain text only equal to the penalty faced for sending messages that contain graphic images.
This change would close a loophole that was used last year to reverse a conviction of a man who sent a sexually explicit e-mail that contained only text to an undercover police officer posing as a minor. While it is currently illegal to have electronic communications with a minor that depicts sexual conduct, some have claimed that words alone are not covered under that law.
In the case decided last year, the appellate court in Brooklyn concluded that messages containing only words, without pictures, do not constitute indecent material under current state law. The change that Senator Flanagan is pushing for would help to protect children who are targets of Internet predators.
"In light of the failure of the appellate court to exercise true commonsense, the state needs to change the law. The children of our state deserve this protection and the parents of this state need to know that the laws work for them." stated Senator Flanagan. "Without this change, we risk the possibility of more judges erroneously legislating from the bench on this issue while children suffer unnecessary, life-altering harm."
According to statistics on the KlaasKids Foundation web site, www.klaaskids.org, the dangers facing children using the Internet are wide spread:
-1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the Internet (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)
-89% of youth in Internet chat rooms have received some form of sexual solicitation. (Pew Study reported in JAMA, 2001)
-Law enforcement officials estimate that as many as 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment. (Dateline 2006)
According to statistics supplied by the United States Department of Education, children are using the Internet at an ever-increasing rate. Beginning in nursery school with 23 percent of the kids online, the percent of children using the Internet grows to 32 percent in kindergarten and reaches its peak of 80 percent usage when children reach the high school level.
These statistics translate intoa high number of children on the computer with a corresponding number of predators who could possibly harm them.
"With children having continued access to the Internet, we need to constantly strengthen our laws to provide them with the greatest protection possible. The Internet is a great tool for education and enjoyment and children should be able to enjoy surfing safely. This legislation would provide some additional safety and I am hopeful that Governor Spitzer will join us in creating this new safeguard," added Senator Flanagan.
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