Newsletter - February 2010


Stop Child Predators
Advisory Board

Mark Lunsford
Chairman

Joanna Acocella
Vice President of Federal Relations at Apollo Group, Inc.

Meryl Chertoff
Legislative relations professional, attorney and community volunteer

Viet Dinh
Georgetown University Professor of Law and former Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at U.S. Department of Justice

Brian Jones
Senior Counsel at Dow Lohnes

Roderick R. Paige, Ed.D.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education
(2001-2005)

Executive Team

Cary Katz
Chairman

Stacie Rumenap
President

Lizette B. Herraiz
Counsel

John Falb
Treasurer & Member of the Board

Table of Contents

President's Message
For any parent who feels out-of-touch or under-equipped to engage their child on the Internet, this edition of Stop Child Predators’ newsletter helps parents think about how media and technology fit into their family’s life.  From the “Parents Tech Corner” that offers tips for parents who want to help their kids safely navigate the Internet and other digital platforms to SCP staffer Amy Thienel’s advice that teens should think before they text or post material online, think of StopChildPredators.org as your one-stop website to learn about protecting and preparing children and teens as they grow up in a digital age, guarding your online privacy and balancing time spent in cyberspace—with articles that the entire family can read.
> Read More

A Not So “Super” Bowl
It’s been nearly two months since Stop Child Predators spoke out against the NFL’s decision to allow Pete Townshend, guitarist for the iconic rock band The Who, and former sex offender registrant, to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show.

Townshend was placed on the UK sex offender registry from 2003-2008 after he admitted to paying for online child pornography. Townshend claimed that this purchase was made for research, which according to the FBI is one of the most common excuses given by alleged pedophiles when caught. Let’s not forget, paying for child porn drives up the demand and funds more abuse—something anyone studying the dark business of child pornography would recognize. > Read More

 

Parenting in the Digital Age
When it comes to being a parent in the Internet age, nothing has changed.  If that sounds naïve, allow me to explain.  Parenting has always been about two objectives: to protect and to prepare our children as they grow.  For millennia past, through different cultures and contexts—each with their own unique challenges—parents have been faced with these two primary objectives. > Read More

Parents Tech Corner: Monitoring 101
Ellen Ohlenbusch President, McGruff SafeGuard
In any community, children confront dangers every day that parents are careful to protect against. Many parents can identify the troublemakers, the bad influencers, the bullies and possibly the predators to look out for. But, there is another community where children play that involves many more dangers and risks. This community is the Internet, and 74 percent of children ages 8 to 18 explore it without ever leaving home. > Read More

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

presidentFor any parent who feels out-of-touch or under-equipped to engage their child on the Internet, this edition of Stop Child Predators’ newsletter helps parents think about how media and technology fit into their family’s life.  From the “Parents Tech Corner” that offers tips for parents who want to help their kids safely navigate the Internet and other digital platforms to SCP staffer Amy Thienel’s advice that teens should think before they text or post material online, think of StopChildPredators.org as your one-stop website to learn about protecting and preparing children and teens as they grow up in a digital age, guarding your online privacy and balancing time spent in cyberspace—with articles that the entire family can read.

Be sure to also check out Stop Child Predators on Facebook and Twitter where new content is posted regularly.  By the time you receive this newsletter, for instance, SCP will have attended the Future of Privacy Forum’s discussion on how best to empower consumers to take control of their online reputations.  With more people of all ages living more of their lives online, we share our thoughts on Facebook on the importance of controlling the information consumers share. 

We hope you enjoy reading our newly formatted newsletter as much as we enjoy sharing the content with you.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at srumenap@stopchildpredators.org.  Thank you for your continued support.  We are confident that together we will end the exploitation of children.  

Sincerely,


Stacie Rumenap


A Not So "Super" Bowl

It’s been nearly two months since Stop Child Predators spoke out against the NFL’s decision to allow Pete Townshend, guitarist for the iconic rock band The Who, and former sex offender registrant, to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show.
Townshend was placed on the UK sex offender registry from 2003-2008 after he admitted to paying for online child pornography. Townshend claimed that this purchase was made for research, which according to the FBI is one of the most common excuses given by alleged pedophiles when caught. Let’s not forget, paying for child porn drives up the demand and funds more abuse—something anyone studying the dark business of child pornography would recognize.
Even though Townshend is no longer on the sex offender registry, and is free to live out a rock star’s dream to perform at the Super Bowl, the children whose abuse he funded continue to suffer the long-term effects of their abuse. Aside from the physical and psychological damage children face from sexual abuse, they also face having photographs that memorialize their exploitation on the Internet for anyone to see—over and over and over.

During the past couple of months, child advocacy groups in Europe and the United States have been very vocal about their disapproval of the NFL’s decision to allow Townshend to perform. Articles about Townshend’s sordid past can be found on numerous news sites and blogs, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and Associated Content.

Despite the negative attention from the media and concerned parents, the NFL refuses to pull Townshend from the halftime show, delivering a slap in the face to child victims of sex crimes.


Parenting in the Digital Age
By Ellen Ohlenbusch, president of McGruff SafeGuard

When it comes to being a parent in the Internet age, nothing has changed.  If that sounds naïve, allow me to explain.  Parenting has always been about two objectives: to protect and to prepare our children as they grow.  For millennia past, through different cultures and contexts—each with their own unique challenges—parents have been faced with these two primary objectives. 

So today, I say that nothing has changed when it comes to these objectives.  What we must address, then, is not the changes in parenting, but rather the changes in culture and context unique to the Internet age.  Just as parents did 100 years ago, and 1000 years ago, you must engage with your children.  That means communicating with your child.  That means understanding your child’s world.

Today, a large part of your child’s world—their culture, experiences, and social scene—consists of the Internet.  Some parents today are quick to write off the Internet as a bad influence.  I cannot help but recall when a not-so-distant generation of parents wrote off rock-and-roll music as a bad influence, too.  Nothing has changed.  While there are dangers to be aware of, we completely alienate our children when, out of ignorance, we fear the technology that is so entangled with their lives.  The fact is that the Internet is largely a positive influence, providing many positive experiences in the social development of children today.  These experiences will equip them for a professional world now dominated by the same technology. 

But what can you do as a parent?  You may feel under-equipped to commit and engage your children in the Internet age.  At the simplest level, here are some easy-to-implement suggestions that can get you involved immediately in your child’s life online:

  1. Start.  It may seem rudimentary, but my first piece of advice is start.  Start early.  Start young.  Start now.  Ideally, your teenager would never remember the day mom and dad made rules for the Internet.  It is natural and beneficial for your children to grow up with Internet guidelines as common as a bed time or curfew. 
  1. Join.  You may think you’re too old or simply uninterested in using the social networking websites that your children use.  You miss the point.  You weren’t too old to play peek-a-boo with your toddler.  Why disengage now? 
  1. Observe.  Where is the family PC located?  Do your children have the ability or the privilege of using a laptop unsupervised in the secrecy of their bedroom?  A publicly located family computer creates a precedent for the type of involvement that is not only your right as a parent, but is your duty.
  1. Instruct.  You may not be a computer-whiz, but you know what is appropriate and what is not.  You should create guidelines for your children and clearly communicate what is expected.  Teach your children the dangers that exist, and create rules designed for their safety.  As children, we were taught not to talk to strangers.  How much more teaching is required now that an unassuming “friend request” can expose a flood of personal information? 
  1. Enforce.  For some parents, this step becomes much more difficult.  How can I know what my child does online?  How can I see who their friends are, what they’re talking about, and what content their viewing?  There are monitoring tools available that allow parents to see what their children do online—not unlike how you would know what they do in your back yard or in the house—so that you can enforce the rules which you have set.  

The earlier you begin to implement these steps with your children, the better and more natural their online experience will be as they mature.  Monitoring, for example, has presented angst for many parents who fear that their child will feel invaded.  This is a legitimate concern when implemented suddenly and forcefully on a teen who has begun to rebel.  If used continually as a parenting tool from early childhood, the expectation that Internet activity is exempt from a parent’s supervision will never be established. 

Ellen Ohlenbusch is the president of McGruff SafeGuard, a free, easy-to use Internet safety service that monitors, filters, and controls a child’s activity on the Internet.  Learn more about how to protect your child online at www.GoMcGruff.com

 

mcgruff

PARENTS TECH CORNER: MONITORING 101

Why Should I Monitor?
In any community, children confront dangers every day that parents are careful to protect against. Many parents can identify the troublemakers, the bad influencers, the bullies and possibly the predators to look out for. But, there is another community where children play that involves many more dangers and risks. This community is the Internet, and 74 percent of children ages 8 to 18 explore it without ever leaving home.[1]

What is Monitoring?
Parents want to know where their toddler is in the house. They want to know where their child is in the yard. They want to know where their teen is on a Friday night. In the same way, they should know what Web sites their children are visiting, who they are corresponding with and what they are doing online. Monitoring can help parents keep tabs on their children's Internet activity.

Have you ever been concerned your child was hanging out with the wrong crowd or that they were unsupervised at a sleepover? The same dangers that can develop from these situations also exist on the internet - and to an even greater degree.

What Features are Important in Monitoring Software?
Effective monitoring software will do more than track destinations and content viewed. There are several programs that “filter” content for profanity, pornography and illicit activity. While these measures are useful, they lack some crucial components. Parents not only want to know where their children are, but also what they are doing. Effective monitoring software should screen for potentially harmful behavior—either exhibited by the individual child or from others—in the interactive content on sites such as social media, email and chat.

With the advent of social media, kids can not only view content online but also, literally, become “friends” with others online. Even in online destinations considered “safe” by filtering software, unsafe activities can still take place. For instance, predators can befriend children on social websites, and behaviors normally prohibited in the home can be carried out online. Monitoring software should identify both the predatory behavior of others as well as the dangerous behaviors of children in order to give parents the tools needed to protect them online.

But not every family is the same, and not every parent enforces the same rules. The software should be flexible and easy-to-use, allowing each parent to monitor their own children as they personally see fit—according to their own ideals and standards. The monitoring software you choose should allow parents to create their own household rules regarding the times when their children may use the Internet and regarding the types of behaviors that they believe are appropriate or not.

Monitoring is all about putting power in the parents’ hands.  In addition to monitoring, parents need to be empowered to understand their children’s online activities. Communication in the Internet age, surprisingly, can require translation.  Slang, acronyms and creative forms of shorthand are pervasive in today’s electronic communication. Effective monitoring software will be able to interpret and relay this information in plain English, or provide dictionaries to assist parents in understanding their child’s online language.

The best monitoring software provide parents access to real-time reports remotely—at work, at home or on the road. Advanced software will even provide the ability to receive instant alerts, such as a text message to a mobile phone, when particularly alarming activity occurs.

Is Monitoring Controversial?
When presented with the concept of internet monitoring, many parents question the integrity of such a practice. It is important to understand what monitoring is, and what monitoring is not. To use monitoring software effectively and respectfully, parents must do so with proper motive.

Monitoring is not a measure of spying—watching a child’s every move with an eager hope to catch them breaking a rule. But, when we acknowledge that some rules are designed for the child’s safety, we can appreciate monitoring as a means to guard that safety. Monitoring software should be used to keep a child safe, which actually begins with simple communication.   Once parents discuss rules with their children and the protective reasoning behind Internet monitoring this helpful software can be utilized as a means of protection, while enabling children to enjoy the Internet and while reducing fear of endangerment amongst their parents.

Parents interested in implementing these ideas may benefit from monitoring software such as McGruff Safeguard.  McGruff Safeguard offers parents the ability to filter Internet content to age-appropriate levels for their children. In addition, parents can monitor their children online by accessing real-time activity reports remotely, receiving daily activity reports, and even receiving instant alerts of dangerous activity via text messaging.  Through great partnerships, McGruff SafeGuard is available FREE to all parents and caregivers at www.gomcgruff.com.


[1] Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds - Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org)

For more information concerning the initiatives in your state, or if you would like Stop Child Predators' assistance in drafting, testifying for, or supporting legislation in your state, please visit our website at http://www.stopchildpredators.org and/or call us at (202) 234-0090.