Rights To Online Anonymity Given To Sex Offenders

Civil Records

Online Anonymity Given To Sex Offenders

In California, a bill that would remove the rights of a sex offender to have online anonymity while using email, instant messaging and social media, among other sites and service online, has been blocked by a federal judge. Judge Thelton Henderson deems Proposition 35 to be an unconstitutional bill.

The State of California has summarized the bill in question as this:

Sign, Wapello, Iowa. This was put up in reacti...
Sign, Wapello, Iowa. This was put up in reaction to Megan’s Law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human trafficking fines and prison sentences would be increased and the convicted human traffickers would be required to participate in the sex offenders registry. The registered sex offenders would be required to reveal all activities and identities pertaining to the Internet. It would cost the state and local governments a few million dollars to address the offenses of human trafficking. However, this cost could potentially be offset with the increase in the fines that are dedicated to the victims of the crime.

This bill was passed by a majority vote of 81% in November. However, it was blocked temporarily by the filing of a lawsuit by the ACLU and a few sex offenders.

Speaking of the bill, the ACLU stated that Proposition 35 adds penalties to the sex offenders and puts upon them new restrictions. The example given to back up this claim was that of older crimes that have nothing to do with children or the Internet. The bill would require these offenders to disclose their screen names and their Internet provider’s information. This bill hampers the offenders freedom of anonymous speech online, which infringes upon their First Amendment right to free speech.

The judge who imposed the blockage of the bill stated that while the government has a legitimate purpose in their fight of human trafficking and online sex offenses, they can not regulate a person’s right to speech in this way.

While offenders search for a clear answer of how they can exercise their right to free speech, this issue is not a cut and dry one as the response varies from state to state. In Indiana, it was decided that a social media site ban for sex offenders was lawful. While a similar case in Nebraska was dismissed.

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Setting Teen Chat Room Rules for your Child

Civil Records

Every parent wants to protect their child from harm and as a parent of a teenager, you are acutely aware of the dangers of the internet.  The news is rife with reports of children who have been targeted by internet predators.  It’s enough to want to make you ban your child the web completely.  You know that is not a feasible solution to the problem, but is there anything parents can do to help protect their children when they are visiting internet chat rooms?

How to Help Your Teen Stay Safe on the Internet

First, be realistic.  You know you can’t forbid your child from visiting chat rooms and make it stick.  Even if they don’t use a home computer, they’ll find a way.  Laptops, friends’ computers, even cell phones with internet access, are all too accessible to your teen.  Besides, the forbidden fruit is always more tempting and if you prohibit chat room use, your child will become more determined than ever to go there.

Instead, help your child find acceptable chat rooms. Look for rooms dedicated solely to teens.  These rooms should have continuous moderation and allow users to report offenders to admin if an unpleasant situation should arise.  Safe sites designed for teens should forbid users from giving out personal information such as phone numbers, email addresses, or locations.  Profane chat should not be permitted.

Talk to your teen about the importance of keeping personal information personal.  Not only should your child not give out information about themselves, they should not give out information about you, either.  Some predators want that info so they can hack into your financial accounts.

Make full use of parental controls and blocking software.  Check your child’s search history frequently and be observant when your child is on the computer.  If rules are broken, that is the time to restrict computer usage.

Get Involved

Don’t be ignorant to social media.  Get involved yourself and you’ll have a better understanding of your teen’s attraction to it.  Set up a Facebook page and get on your child’s friends list.  This gives you an inside look at whom your teen is chatting with and what they are chatting about.  Be cool, though.   You do not want to embarrass your child online.

Finally, talk to your child frequently about safe internet use.  Make it clear that they are never to meet a stranger from the internet anywhere, any time.  Make them understand that yes, it really could happen to them.

Keep your eyes open and the lines of communication unlocked, talk to your child about their internet experiences, and try to relax.  You are doing everything possible to protect your child.

  • Cyber Etiquette for Teens (psychologytoday.com)
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