Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today announced that legislation offering greater protection to children who use the Internet has been signed into law. The new law, already in effect, changes current law by criminalizing the transmission of sexually explicit text-only e-mail messages to minors.
Prior to its approval, such e-mails had to include graphic images or photos to be prosecuted.
This change will close a legal loophole that was used last year to reverse a conviction of a man who transmitted text-only e-mails that were sexually explicit in nature to an undercover police officer who was posing as a minor. While the law stated that it was illegal to have sexually explicit electronic communications with a minor, it was claimed that the law did not cover text-only messages.
By changing the law, Senator Flanagan’s legislation ensures that any sexually explicit e-mail communication with a minor is not permissible.
"Internet predators have used this loophole to avoid punishment in the past but the Governor’s approval finally ends this practice. This new law is a commonsense approach to a real problem and will make using the Internet safer for the children of our state," stated Senator Flanagan. "This law is now crystal clear and our children deserve nothing less."
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.
This translates into a high number of children on the computer with a corresponding number of predators who could possibly harm them.
"Kids of all ages are using the Internet in greater numbers and we need to strengthen our laws to make sure they can use this important resource safely. We have an obligation to protect our children from inappropriate and unwanted internet communications. This law puts predators on notice that this kind of contact, whether textual or pictorial, will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible", added Senator Flanagan.
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