Newsletter - June 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

John Falb
Treasurer & Member of the Board

Amy Thienel
Communications Director

Table of Contents

President's Message
June marks Internet Safety Month. As such parents, please remember that when you buy your teens a laptop, or your young children a cell phone, remember to consider the potential dangers that go along with accessing the Internet, especially as new technologies are constantly being developed and parents can sometimes struggle to keep up with the latest inventions
> Read More

Chatroulette: The latest threat to our children online!
by Ellen Ohlenbusch President, McGruff SafeGuard 200,000 years ago our ancestors were exposed to many risks and challenges: hungry animals, poisonous foods, and dehydration to list a few. For parents, not much has changed. We are still dealing with risks but they are more likely to be unhealthy food, television, bullying, and the internet.
> Read More

Georgia governor signs bill into law that protects consumers from inadvertently sharing personal information, child pornography online
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (D) signed legislation in late May that will better protect consumers from inadvertently sharing information stored on their computers, and help prevent sharing illegal materials like child pornography, by requiring peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing distributors to obtain the informed consent of users before information on their computers is shared. The bill is S.B. 470 and goes into effect July 1, 2010.
> Read More

"Jessie's Dad" documentary wins hearts of viewers, emotional plea to support tougher laws for sex offenders
Stop Child Predators' President Stacie Rumenap was on hand for the June 2nd Washington, DC premier of "Jessie's Dad," a documentary that follows the life of SCP Chairman Mark Lunsford as he criss-crosses the country in a relentless effort to pass Jessica's Law.
> Read More

The Garden State pushes for Jessica's Law
New Jersey lawmakers are considering Jessica's Law, requiring a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison. The law is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2005 by a convicted sex offender in Florida.
> Read More



PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

June marks Internet Safety Month. As such, parents, please remember that when you buy your teens a laptop or cell phone, consider the potential dangers that go along with accessing the Internet, especially as new technologies are constantly being developed and it can sometimes be a struggle to keep up with the latest inventions.

Today, 96 percent of all teenagers are online in some capacity. Studies show that children are going online at younger ages: the fastest-growing segment of Internet users is now pre-schoolers. Many kids use the Internet at school by the time they are six years old, and kids as young as four and five are surfing the net as websites like Webkinz.com and Club Penguin appeal to young users.

With this increased usage of the Internet, also comes an increase in potential abuse.

The newest threat is the everyday harm kids inflict on one another in chat rooms, social networking sites, virtual worlds and through text messages.

Tales of cyberbullying crimes continue to fill newspaper pages as more children and teenagers wage war with one another on computers and cell phones. Cyberbullies, as they are called, hide behind the relative anonymity of the Internet to intimidate, insult and harass others online, without much fear of consequence. More than half of American teens are affected by cyberbullying, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. Yet very few teens report incidences of bullying to their parents or other adults.

It is not just cyberbullying that parents should fear. Today's teens are also distributing electronically nude self-portraits in a practice called "sexting" if it is done by cell phone. With an estimated 90 to 95 percent of school kids carrying cell phones, sexting has grown rapidly in popularity among teenagers. Students face consequences ranging from suspension from school to felony charges when their explicit text messages-even those that are intended to remain private-are quickly passed on to wider audiences, with or without their consent. Not only can such images be humiliating to the students who are featured in them, but they can be memorialized on the Internet or cached indefinitely by online search engines.

And let us not also forget that parents need to continue to fight against adult predators who groom and try to lure children into face-to-face meetings for reprehensible purposes.

Over the past two years, Stop Child Predators released safety tips on keeping kids safe online. We encourage you to review these tips again this month and talk to your family about online risks so that both you and your children can feel good about them having a safe online experience. Be sure to also check out this month's Parent Tech Corner brought to you from our partner McGruff Safeguard that can be found in the pages ahead (along with legislative updates from Georgia and New Jersey).

As always, check us out on Facebook and Twitter where new content is posted regularly, and where action alerts about your state can be easily found.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter as much as we enjoy sharing the content with you. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact me at srumenap@stopchildpredators.org. Thank you for your continued support. We are confident that together we will STOP CHILD PREDATORS.

Sincerely,


Stacie Rumenap

Chatroulette: The latest threat to our children online!

by Ellen Ohlenbusch President, McGruff SafeGuard

200,000 years ago our ancestors were exposed to many risks and challenges: hungry animals, poisonous foods, and dehydration to list a few. For parents, not much has changed. We are still dealing with risks but they are more likely to be unhealthy food, television, bullying, and the internet.

As busy parents we pick our battles and do the best we can. On a daily basis we make dozens of decisions that affect the growth and development of our children. We are here to teach our children how to be safe so they may grow into adulthood. That is our basic parental duty. And so we must stay aware of what is lurking in the underbrush in the same way our ancestors did. Our big challenge is how, as parents, do we balance work, health, finances, and relationships in addition to parenthood and keeping our kids safe? Thankfully we do not have to deal with the same dangers as our ancestors. But our modern day predators are equally real and equally dangerous.

Let me give you an example. A few months ago, a 17 year old boy from Russia developed a wonderful way for people to travel all over the world without ever leaving the comforts of home. The web site is called Chatroulette. All you need is a computer with a video camera and you are a click away from meeting interesting people from Spain, Brazil, or India and other places all around the globe. You click on "next chat" to meet someone new. It is completely random and they see you and you see them. It's fast, friendly, and free. But what has happened to this positive, new, adventure web site is that it has become overrun with another kind of exposure.

According to one web site almost 50% of the users on Chatroulette are exposing themselves inappropriately. This reflects my own experience with the site. In one chat you might be chatting with a friendly couple in France. And when you click next you could be faced with a person masturbating or full nudity. It is an anything goes, no holds barred free for all. And what is more worrying than the indecency is there are the sexual predators who will use this as a source to seek out their prey. Our children!

Chatroulette says you must be a least 16 years of age to use the site. It also says sexual inappropriateness is not tolerated. Yet the site has no way to regulate those rules and is marketing the site as a game. This site can be easily accessed by ANYONE at anytime. A five year old, eleven year old or sixteen year old could stumble across this web site and be faced with highly inappropriate "content". And the site isn't going anywhere, it is very popular - it is one of the highest visited sites on the web. Ask your kids if they have heard of it. Most likely they have.

This is just the beginning of what we as modern parents have to deal with. We must stay informed because we are on the front line in protecting our children from these predators. The only solution is to stay educated. The problem is we all know the Internet is the wave of the future -if it isn't already. How many things do you search for on line, how many times do you use the internet to purchase items? How much research do your kids do online for homework? How much do they use it for game playing or IM'ing each other? Our children need to learn the Internet and how to access it responsibly and safely but there are a few things we can do as parents to protect our children.

Knowing there are predators on the Internet who will seek out your vulnerable children is the first and most important step. However, here are some other valuable tips:

  1. Talk to your children and set guidelines on what they can and cannot do online.
  2. Keep the computer in a central and visible location in the house.
  3. Use parental control software to block inappropriate sites like Chatroulette.
  4. Encourage your children to come to you if they have a problem online.
  5. Learn as much as you can about technology.
  6. Ask your children questions about what they do online.
  7. Monitor your teens' online profiles and security settings regularly.
  8. Answer and research any questions that your children may have.
  9. Ask your children to show you how to do things online.
  10. Limit the amount of time that your children are allowed to use the computer.

For many of these you can use some help to implement and maintain. McGruff SafeGuard, a parental control service was designed to provide parents and caregivers insight into the latest websites and technologies their children are accessing and using. The software protects children from potentially harmful websites and will keep parents informed of potentially dangerous behavior. Additionally, it is an educational resource portal for parents, allowing them to become aware of the latest trends and dangers that face their children.

We can't stop sites like Chatroulette from happening but we can stop them from coming into our house and affecting our kids. Stay educated about such modern dangers. It's our job to protect our children and this software can help us do that.

200,000 years ago our ancestors did whatever they had to to protect their children from exposure to risk and danger. Nothing has changed for us today. Download McGruff Safeguard for your home computer and stop the predators from coming in - keep your children safe.

Ellen Ohlenbusch is an Internet Safety Expert and the President of McGruff SafeGuard, a company delivering, easy-to use Internet safety services to parents and caregivers that monitors, filters, and controls a child's activity on the Internet. Learn more about how to get this service and make it available to your community - protect your child today at www.GoMcGruff.com or contact Ellen at elleno@gomcgruff.com.



Georgia governor signs bill into law that protects consumers from inadvertently sharing personal information, child pornography online

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (D) signed legislation in late May that will better protect consumers from inadvertently sharing information stored on their computers, and help prevent sharing illegal materials like child pornography, by requiring peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing distributors to obtain the informed consent of users before information on their computers is shared. The bill is S.B. 470 and goes into effect July 1, 2010.

P2P applications connect personal computers to each other for the purpose of sharing or copying computer files and content. While P2P can be used for legitimate purposes, it has been predominantly used to illegally copy millions of copyrighted works and has served as a massive distribution system for child pornography. Even though the technology has been around much longer, P2P joined the national conversation with the popularity and controversy surrounding Napster and other free music sharing services in the late 1990s.

Some P2P programs are intentionally configured to automatically share content on the user's computer with the public at large. Because users must opt out of sharing files, they are often involuntarily sharing personal or confidential files including such information as social security numbers, tax returns, loan applications and credit reports.

Additionally, the lack of monitoring has made P2P networks the Wild West of the Internet, making them a breeding ground for the distribution of child pornography. In some instances, users can download and share child pornography without realizing it. Shared files are often named harmless-sounding titles that appeal to children, like "Pokemon" or "Hannah Montana." In reality, those files are child pornography that attach to the users hard drive and make them available to even more users.

The new Georgia law prevents these examples from happening by calling on developers and distributors of file sharing programs to inform consumers about the functionality and risks of P2P and requires consumers to affirmatively activate any sharing feature on the application. Currently, the sharing option is agreed to as part of multi-page terms and contracts that few if any users read, along with a default setting that automatically allows personal and private files to be shared. With the passage of S.B. 470, consumers' personal files will no longer be shared unless the consumer has checked a specific box permitting or allowing the public to have access to their private and personal files.

Last month, Stop Child Predators' President Stacie Rumenap met with Governor Perdue's staff to offer support for the then-proposed legislation and discuss the challenges in tracking distributors of illicit materials the decentralized technology creates. Unlike a server, she said, there is no main hub of information and monitoring millions of unique computer connections is difficult. She also highlighted SCP's white paper, "Peer-to-Peer File Sharing: Pandora's Box of Child Porn?" that includes statistics indicating P2P networks create fertile ground for swapping pornographic material of minors.

S.B. 470 mirrors efforts by members of Congress to crack down on illegal file sharing. Congressional House Resolution 1319, the "Informed P2P User Act," requires P2P programs to provide consumers with notice as to which of their files will be shared publicly, and requires the user to affirmatively activate the function that would share their files. The federal Act is supported by 41 state attorneys general.

P2P applications account for between 43 to 70 percent of Internet traffic, depending on region and quality of the Internet connection, according to a 2007 study by iPoque



"Jessie's Dad" documentary wins hearts of viewers, emotional plea to support tougher laws for sex offenders

Stop Child Predators' President Stacie Rumenap was on hand for the June 2nd Washington, DC premier of "Jessie's Dad," a documentary that follows the life of SCP Chairman Mark Lunsford as he criss-crosses the country in a relentless effort to pass Jessica's Law.

Jessica's Law requires mandatory minimum sentences of 25-years to life for sex crimes against children and lifetime monitoring of those sex offenders who are released from prison. The law is named after Mark's daughter Jessica, who was abducted, raped and buried alive by a twice convicted sex offender in Florida.

The film shows Mark's transformation from a grieving father to a savvy child advocate who helped Jessica's Law become law in 43 states. SCP President Stacie Rumenap also appears in the film, and led the audience in a question and answer session at the premier.

Jessie's Dad is co-directed by Boaz Dvir and Rebecca Goldman. Watch a clip of "Jessie's Dad" here



The Garden State pushes for Jessica's Law

New Jersey lawmakers are considering Jessica's Law, requiring a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison. The law is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2005 by a convicted sex offender in Florida.

New Jersey Bill A1767, sponsored by Assemblywomen Nancy Munoz, Joan Voss and Mary Pat Angelini, passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee and is now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It received wide support on both sides of the political aisle and has over 50 co-sponsors.

Under the proposed bill, first and second-degree child sex offenders will face a minimum prison sentence of 25 years to life. Under existing law, they face a sentence of between 5 and 20 years.

To date, 43 states have some version of Jessica's Law. Previous attempts to pass Jessica Law in New Jersey failed.

Stop Child Predators' President Stacie Rumenap appeared before the Assembly Judiciary Committee to offer her support for the bill, and also submitted written testimony to the New Jersey legislature.

If you live in New Jersey, please contact your state legislators and tell them the safety of our children is too important to not pass tougher laws against convicted sex offenders.


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.