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From the Desk of Legislator Dave Mejias

Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

This summer I sponsored and passed legislation in Nassau County that protects children on the Internet by banning all convicted sex offenders from social networking and Internet dating websites. Working closely with nationally renowned advocacy groups Parents For Megan’s Law & the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect we were able to pass this important legislation to provide a safer environment for our children to surf the Internet.

While researching this legislation it became apparent how dangerous a place the Internet can be for unsupervised children. Sexual predators are using the Internet and websites like MySpace and Facebook to prey on children. They are also using online dating services like to identify single mothers to exploit their children.

The Internet is an uncensored conglomeration of information on almost any subject, including sites that advocate violence, are sexually explicit or that encourage inappropriate behavior. There are also numerous chat rooms and other forums where children may be exposed to inappropriate contact with adults or other children. The Internet was not designed or intended for use by children, especially without proper adult supervision. Parents educating their children and supervising their Internet use can protect kids while still providing them the benefit of a wealth of knowledge the Internet can bring.

Below are some helpful tips for Internet usage:

• Remind your children never to give out personal information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

• Tell your children never to send a picture of themselves to a stranger on the internet without parental permission.

• Ask your children to immediately inform you if anyone is asking for any of the above information.

• Inform your children to not meet someone or have them visit without the permission of their parents.

• Remind your children that people online may not be who they say they are.

• Keep the computer in a common public area of the home – never in a child’s bedroom.

• Share an email account with your child and monitor his or her emails.

• Become familiar with your internet service provider’s filtering and parental controls to prevent kids from visiting inappropriate sites.

• Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.

• Call the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children at 800-843-5678 if you are aware of transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet.

Most importantly, take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange.

To better educate our parents and children on how to have a fun, safe, and enjoyable experience on the Internet I have asked representatives from both Parents for Megan’s Law and Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect to be guest speakers at a special town hall presentation I am hosting on Wednesday, Aug. 12. The town hall meeting will be held at the Starbucks Rotunda in the Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa beginning at 5:30 p.m. I encourage all adults to come down and attend this important meeting to learn how to best protect our children from the dangers the Internet may pose.