Newsletter - May 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
With the midnight oil burning at the Maryland General Assembly, legislators decided on a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for people who commit more serious sex offenses or rape against a child, instead of a five-year sentence under existing law. They also eliminated the possibility of reduced prison sentences for good behavior for violent and repeat sex offenders. I was in Annapolis today as Governor Martin O'Malley signed these bills into law, and thank Joan Harris, Dee Zepp, Assemblymen Steven Schuh and Michael Smigiel and the countless other volunteers and lawmakers that made today possible. Congrats on a solid win!
> Read More

Chelsea's Law Gains Momentum in California Assembly
Chelsea's Law has been swiftly making its way through the California legislature. It has support on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic Assembly leader, John Perez and Republican California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
> Read More

Facebook Improves Online Safety Reporting, Ignores Demand for Panic Button
Facebook's new Safety Advisory Board, comprised of leading experts from a variety of safety organizations, introduced its new Safety Center last month to help consumers stay safe while surfing online. The Center also features tools that allow parents, teachers, teens and law enforcement to report questionable content
> Read More

Jessie's Dad Documentary
In honor of National Missing Children's Day (see article, May 25 Marks National Missing Children's Day), SCP President Stacie Rumenap will join award-winning film director Boaz Dvir on June 2 in Washington, DC for his DC premier of "Jessie's Dad."
> Read More

May 25 Marks National Missing Children's Day
May 25 marks National Missing Children's Day, a day in which groups like Stop Child Predators strive to elevate child safety as a national priority.
> Read More

How technology and community helps parents keep their kids safe
Let's face it. Teens are out pacing their parents in using the Internet, and most parents don't have the time or energy to know what their teens (or tweens) are doing on-line. And as technology continues to evolve, parents fall further and further behind.
> Read More



PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

With the midnight oil burning at the Maryland General Assembly, legislators decided on a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for people who commit more serious sex offenses or rape against a child, instead of a five-year sentence under existing law. They also eliminated the possibility of reduced prison sentences for good behavior for violent and repeat sex offenders. I was in Annapolis today as Governor Martin O'Malley signed these bills into law, and thank Joan Harris, Dee Zepp, Assemblymen Steven Schuh and Michael Smigiel and the countless other volunteers and lawmakers that made today possible. Congrats on a solid win!

You may recall that the need for changes to Maryland's sex offender laws came in the wake of the death of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell, whose mother Jennifer was also in Annapolis this week. Sarah's body was found on the Eastern Shore on Christmas Day after a search that brought out thousands of volunteers. A registered sex offender has been charged with murder in her death. You can read April's newsletter to learn more about SCP's efforts to pass tougher sex offender laws in Maryland.

Whether you live in Maryland, California, or somewhere in between, be sure to take 25 minutes to talk to your children about safety on May 25, National Missing Children's Day. Read on to learn about the Take 25 initiative sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as SCP's promotion of the documentary "Jessie's Dad" which will premier in DC a week later.

For all our California readers, thank you for your calls and emails about the urgency to pass tougher sex offender laws after Chelsea King's disappearance was reported by the media. Chelsea is the 17-year-old California girl who disappeared after going for a run in February. Her body was found days later. She was raped and strangled by a man who was convicted of violently molesting a 13 year old in 2000. He recently pled guilty to Chelsea's rape and murder, and also admitted to raping and murdering another girl since his release from prison in 2005. A judge will sentence him later this month. Read on to learn more about "Chelsea's Law."

These stories and more, including Parents Tech Corner brought to you from our partner McGruff Safeguard, can be found in the pages ahead. 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


Chelsea's Law Gains Momentum in California Assembly

Chelsea's Law has been swiftly making its way through the California legislature. It has support on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic Assembly leader, John Perez and Republican California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Chelsea's Law is named in honor of Chelsea King, the 17-year-old California girl who disappeared after going for a run in February. Her body was found days later. She was raped and strangled by a man who was convicted of violently molesting a 13 year old in 2000, but was freed after only 5 years in prison. He has also admitted to raping and murdering another girl since his release from prison.

Chelsea's Law, AB 1844, was introduced to the General Assembly by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. The law includes three parts:

  • It establishes a one-strike system in which sexual predators who commit the most heinous crimes against children will receive life without parole. Other penalties for sex crimes against children are also increased.
  • It requires lifetime parole with GPS monitoring for felony child sex offenders.
  • It creates a new misdemeanor charge that will disallow felony sex offenders from loitering in parks where children congregate.

The bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee unanimously and goes before the Assembly Appropriations Committee next month.

You can show your support for Chelsea's Law by signing up on the Chelsea's Light Foundation website.

Facebook Improves Online Safety Reporting, Ignores Demand for Panic Button

Facebook's new Safety Advisory Board, comprised of leading experts from a variety of safety organizations, introduced its new Safety Center last month to help consumers stay safe while surfing online. The Center also features tools that allow parents, teachers, teens and law enforcement to report questionable content.

Despite these efforts, Facebook has come under fire in the UK from their Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) for not inserting a 'Panic' button on their site. The thinking by CEOP is that such a button would deter pedophiles and other criminal behavior.

But online safety expert Linda Criddle writes for the Safe Internet Alliance that Facebook should ignore such a demand for three key reasons.

First, "Little of what is reported will actually be a police matter, and giving this information to the police is then highly inappropriate - it's none of their business. You don't want your child investigated by the police simply because someone chooses to report them; that's a form of bullying in itself."

Second, "It is a poor use of police time to sift through the flood of 'panic reports' that don't actually merit their attention. Shifting the burden of responsibility and cost that should appropriately fall on the company to the public is an inappropriate use of tax funds."

Third, "A 'panic' button circumvents the service's abuse system, which in turn means the service cannot effectively manage what's happening on their service, or understand how to take remedial action - including blocking users," Criddle says.

The real solution, Criddle offers, "is for users, parents of users, and governments, to hold service providers accountable for providing strong abuse detection capabilities, combined with appropriate real-time response by moderators to any abuse that's reported."

Read more about this issue here


Jessie's Dad Documentary

In honor of National Missing Children's Day (see article, May 25 Marks National Missing Children's Day), SCP President Stacie Rumenap will join award-winning film director Boaz Dvir on June 2 in Washington, DC for his DC premier of "Jessie's Dad".

The documentary follows SCP Chairman Mark Lunsford on his relentless effort to pass Jessica's Law across the country which requires mandatory minimum sentences for sex crimes against children and lifetime monitoring of sex offenders after their release from prison. The law is named after Mark's daughter Jessica, who was abducted, raped and murdered by a twice convicted sex offender in Florida.

The film shows Mark's transformation from a grieving father to a savvy child advocate who has helped pass Jessica's Law in 43 states. SCP President Stacie Rumenap also makes an appearance in the film. Jessie's Dad is co-directed by Rebecca Goldman.

The DC screening will be held June 2 at 8:00 pm at the US Navy Memorial Theater located at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 2004.

Watch a clip of Jessie's Dad here


May 25 Marks National Missing Children's Day

May 25 marks National Missing Children's Day, a day in which groups like Stop Child Predators strive to elevate child safety as a national priority.

As part of a national campaign, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) runs "Take 25," an initiative designed to encourage parents to talk to their children for 25 minutes about the risks they may face from potential abductors and online predators. You can download NCMEC's materials they provide to assist parents with these difficult conversations, including discussion guidelines, safety tips and activity ideas. Be sure to also check out local events in your area.

On average, 2,185 children are reported missing each day. One in five girls and one in ten boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood. And one in seven children receive a sexual solicitation online. Please, don't let your child fall victim to such statistics. Take 25 minutes this May 25 to talk to your children about drugs, sex, Internet safety, and anything else they may have questions about so you can help them come up with strategies for staying safe.


How technology and community helps parents keep their kids safe

Let's face it. Teens are out pacing their parents in using the Internet, and most parents don't have the time or energy to know what their teens (or tweens) are doing on-line. And as technology continues to evolve, parents fall further and further behind.

First we saw teens communicate via email. Just like we, the parents of teens, do at work. Then teens adopted instant messaging and chat. As parents, we struggled to keep up, but for the most part, IM'ing and chat was ignored. Soon teens and tweens discovered MySpace. It looked too "noisy" and "confusing", so parents were more likely to ignore than to dive in.

Teens also found MySpace uninteresting and moved onto Facebook. We thought it was yet another trend and we first ignored Facebook, but now, for some of us, it is part of our daily routine. Many parents are more active on Facebook than their kids. Teens, on the other hand, have again moved on.

The ever-changing technology or introduction of a new web venue becomes a parent's biggest challenge. How can we possibly know what our teens and tweens are doing online if every few months, they discover a new place to congregate on the web? By the time we hear about it on our morning or evening news show, or read about it in the paper, it's too late. We are once again playing catch-up while our kids are moving on.

How do we "parent" in the "Internet Age" if we don't know what to look for?

Step 1: Realize that for kids, online is the same as real-life

Most parents still think the Internet is like TV - a relatively safe place where tweens and teens spend time. We grew up with the "boob tube", and we let our children do the same thing with TV, video games and the Internet. As long as we see them playing on the PC, we assume they are safe.

They might occasionally stumble into a porn site, but, for the most part, if they are home and sitting in front of the PC, they are more-or-les s playing.

If that's what you believe, you better wake up to the reality of the 21st century. Tweens & teens live on the Internet. It's their reality. We are quickly losing touch with our children's perspective. And it's getting more "intense" every year.

For a parent, it's hard to really understand what this means. The Internet is not just a communication tool or a game. When a tween or teen uses the Internet, they are living online. They are friends with people they only know through the Internet, they visit places that only exist on the Internet and their reality - not our reality - is the virtual world of the Internet.

If you saw the movie Avatar, then you have a glimpse of what the Internet is to teens, and where things are headed. If you watched Star Trek and remembered the "virtual reality" of the holodeck, you can begin to grasp how 21st century children view their online activities.

Step 2: Understand what they are doing online

You need to become familiar with the places where your child spends time online now, and where the "cool places" will be in the future.

There are many Parental Control products available that tell you where your child goes on the Internet. For example, Microsoft's Family Safe product, built into Windows 7, gives you a full history of the websites where your child visited. Unfortunately, you can only access these report from your child's own PC.

Parenting in the "Internet Age" requires that you not only understand which websites your child frequents, but what they do at those websites.

Some Parental Control products will show you not only where your child goes, but what they did when they got there, who they did it with, and what they talked about. A few of them will let you access your child's activity from your home or work PC (as opposed to the child's PC). As a working parent, this is a must have. Being able to be notified of dangerous behavior or simply check-in to see that things are ok while you are away is critical. It provides peace of mind that is invaluable to any parent.

Step 3: Work with other parents to identify sites where teens congregate

All parents should be able to work together to identify websites where teens go, and tell each other about it. How do we build a community of parents that understand what their children do online, and help one another being Internet Parents?

Imagine if a Boston father notices that his teen is starting to frequent a website dedicated to an aberrant behavior (such as one relating to violence or depression), and he tells other parents about it. Thanks to the actions of one parent in Boston, a mother in Seattle and a father in Austin would be alerted that their child may be drifting towards violent or depressive action.

Or, if a mother in San Diego sees her child is being stalked by an Internet predator, wouldn't it be great if she could report that predator to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and, at the same time, she ensures that all other children would not be targeted by that predator?

A community of parents could empower a grandfather in Richmond: he would witness that his 9 year old granddaughter is visiting a website for 15 year old girls; he could then flag that website as age-inappropriate, and know that he has helped thousands of other parents keep their kids safe.

Step 4: The community and the Parental Control product is available now

McGruff SafeGuard is the only product that provides all of the Parent Control features a parent needs, and harnesses the power of tens of thousands of vigilant parents to keep tweens and teens safe.

Every day, parents across the U.S.A. and the world visit the McGruff SafeGuard website to ensure that their tweens and teens are safe. At the secure website, parents view their child's activities, and contribute information about the places their children spend time.

Using patent-pending technology, McGruff SafeGuard takes the information provided by the community of parents and updates every child's PC automatically. Just like PCs are automatically updated with the latest "spyware" and "virus" definitions, McGruff SafeGuard updates all the PCs with the latest website analysis information.

Even before you learn about the dangers of the website"13 year old girls who love to ride horses" on the Oprah show or 20/20, McGruff SafeGuard is informing and educating you, and protecting your child in real time.

Step 5: Take Action

Decide today that you will take action. Get in front of the ever changing curve of new technology and cool sites are kids frequent. Start being a Parent in the Internet Age: visit www.GoMcGruff.com


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.