In 2008, the Illinois legislature enacted a law authored by state Sen. John Waterman barring most registered sex offenders from using Facebook or other social networking sites. The law was challenged and upheld by a district court in June 2012.
Displeased with that court's decision, the ACLU of Indiana filed an appeal. The 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago in late January overturned the lower court's decision and ruled that the Indiana law was unconstitutional.
Sen. Waterman has stated he will pursue new measures to protect children online from the dangers of sexual predators.
Sex Offenders Fight Back
Sex offenders have organized legal battles, fighting for their right to be online. They were successful in February 2012 when a federal judge in Louisiana struck down a state law barring sex offenders from using Facebook and other social media on First Amendment grounds.
Efforts to restrict sex offenders across the U.S. seem to reach the same obstacle.
Social Networking Has Its Dangers for Teens
Predators frequent social media networking sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, MySpace, and chat rooms to connect with children. Here are the facts:
- At any time, there are 50,000 sexual predators online.
- Around 1 in 4 teens had an unwanted exposure to some kind of image of naked people or people having sex in the last year.
- One in 33 kids had been asked by someone to meet them somewhere, or called them, or sent them regular mail, money or gifts.
- 22% of targets for online predators were between the ages of 10 and 13.
• Around 1 in 5 kids had received a sexual solicitation.
10 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Children
There are measures you can take to protect your child.
- Do not let your child have a Facebook account until they are at least 13. (Note: Facebook doesn't allow children under 13 to have accounts, but approximately 7.5 million kids under 13 in the United States are on Facebook (Consumer Reports, 2010) 38% of all kids on Facebook are under 13 (Minor Monitor, 2012)
- Become familiar with Facebook's Safety Center. They have great information there.
- Review your child's privacy settings.
- Block anyone who sends your child an illicit message.
- Talk to your teens about controlling their information.
- Encourage your children to never post their location.
- Encourage teens to self-reflect before they self-reveal.
- Create your own account and "Friend" your children.
- Become well-informed. Learn how the different sites operate. Check the rules for each site.
- Encourage your child to find an avatar that reflects her personality, rather than a photograph.
Talk to your teen, and check out more resources including: Internet Keep Safe Coalition.
The Law Offices of James V. Sansone offers a full range of family law legal services including paternity. We are located in Santa Rosa, California and serve clients throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.