Senate Introduces Legislation To Educate Children, Parents

Martin J. Golden

May 06, 2008



The New York State Senate today announced legislation, sponsored by Senator Stephen Saland (R-C-I, Poughkeepsie), to ensure students, parents and teachers have the resources they need to keep children safe while using the Internet.

The bill (S.7051), directs the State Education Commissioner to work with the State Police, the New York State Office for Technology, and other appropriate resources to develop software and a handbook of guidelines concerning safe and responsible use of the Internet. The materials will be provided to students in grades three through twelve, as well as their parents or legal guardians.

"Children are trusting and they have no idea their Internet "friend" could be a pedophile trolling the Internet looking for his next victim," said Senator Saland. "Now that Internet access is prevalent in homes, sex offenders have found an easier way to find their prey. It is imperative that children know the pitfalls that may come with Internet use and become armed with the information they need to use the Internet safely."

"The Internet is a valuable tool, but it is important to make sure our children are protected from dangerous predators who use it to exploit innocent victims," said Senator Marty Golden, Chairman of the Senate Task Force on Critical Choices. "This legislation is a commonsense solution that will provide children, parents, and teachers with the resources they need to make sure our children are able to enjoy the benefits of the Internet, while keeping them safe and secure from online predators."

Teachers and students rely on the Internet as a valuable tool for high-speed learning, research, and communication. However, as technology increases it also becomes easier for dangerous predators to gain access to victims through new means online, including social networking sites, chat rooms and video-sharing sites. With new advances continuing to emerge, it is important that laws keep pace with technology in order to keep children safe while using the Internet.

In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department reported that one in five children, aged 10-17 years old, received an unwanted sexual solicitation online. However, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, only twenty-five percent of children who were solicited told a parent.

In addition to an increasing threat from online predators, more and more children are subjected to intimidation, harassment and bullying via the computer, chat rooms, cell phones and text messaging. In 2004, i-SAFE, a nonprofit youth Internet safety foundation, reported forty-two percent of kids have been threatened or bullied while online, and one in four have had it happen more than once. Children who experience cyber-bullying may be reluctant to report it for fear of losing access to the Internet.

Many children and young adults are unprepared to deal with the challenges and issues that occur with their increasing use of the Internet and online resources. This bill will ensure that they, and their parents, have access to age-appropriate resources that will allow them to maximize the Internet’s potential as a learning tool, while protecting them from predators, harassment, and cyber bullies.

The Senate has also introduced measures that would prevent children under the age of seventeen from creating or maintaining a profile on a social networking site without permission from a parent or a guardian (S.4358, Senator Saland), and require Internet access providers to provide parental control products to parents in order to make sure children can safely and securely use the Internet (S.7253, Senator Lanza).

The Senate has a long history of legislation designed to protect our children from dangerous predators, in their communities and online. Earlier this month, the Senate passed the "Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act of 2008," a comprehensive plan (S.6747, sponsored by Senator Volker) based on a 2007 report from the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices entitled "Protecting Our Children in the Internet Age."

Earlier this year, the Senate passed Attorney General Cuomo’s e-STOP initiative (Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act) to require sex offenders to register their online identifiers and updates Megan’s Law for the Internet age (S.6875-A, Senator Skelos) and a bill (S.1921-A, Senator Robach) to increase penalties for using a computer to commit a sex crime against a child.