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Sexual offenders and social media: Laws needed to keep kids safe
9:07 AM EDT, May 24, 2012
The growing world of social networking is making it easier for sex offenders to contact children and feed their fetish.
Pennsylvania State Trooper Paul Iannace of the Computer Crime Unit is warning parents that child predators are beginning to use video chat sessions on gaming consoles and social networking sites to quickly lure children into an inappropriate sexual relationship.
"They get naked, they start masturbating into the cameras ... the kids don't know how to react," Iannace said.
In some cases, the predator will convince the child to meet to engage in sexual activity. Through his years of investigating cyber crimes, Iannace says he is always surprised by how many opportunities a child had to tell an adult, but did not.
"What is the kid going to do? Go home and tell mom and dad I had sex with a grown man? They are embarrassed," Iannace said.
The growing problem has sparked legislation in several states that would either ban or restrict a sex offender from social media sites. Indiana's law, which bans all offenders from social media sites, is now being challenged in the courts. Opponents argue the strict regulations violate an offender's first amendment rights.
In Pennsylvania - State Representative Eugene Despaquale is leading a bill that would give a judge the power to ban a child predator from social networking sites if they have a history of using the Internet to lure in children.
"There's simply a big hole and it's not just PA, we clearly see there's a pattern here," DePasquale says.
DePasquale says he believes a judge would make the bill constitutional because it allows a judge to make a decision on a case by case basis.
Regardless of the laws, Iannace urges parents to communicate with their children and be aware of the social media sites they spend time on. He also recommends that parents encourage their teens to visit www.teencentral.net, which provides valuable information about a variety of issues that teens may face, including Internet safety.