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Educate Children About Social Media Traps

Update Date: Jul 05, 2012 08:41 AM EDT
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If you want your children to be safe from all those sex offenders out there on the internet, educate them, says Merlyn Horton, an online-safety spokesman according to vancouversun.com.

This report comes after recent moves in the U.S. to use legislation to crack down on Internet sex predators. Horton says its better to educate children rather than banning sex offenders from social media sites or forcing them to disclose their crimes on social networks.

A federal judge in Indiana, last week, upheld a law that bans sex offenders from accessing social networking sites used by children, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others.

In Louisiana, legislation requires sex offenders to list out their crimes in their social networking profiles.

Also, Facebook is asking Canada to provide social networks with their sex offender lists, so that they can be kept off these sites.

However, verifying identities on the Internet is difficult and makes such efforts pointless, says Horton, executive director of the B.C.-based Safe OnLine Outreach Society.

"Can you bar somebody from having a Facebook account? What if they have an account under a name they make up, under their brother's name, or under the name of someone they pay to let them use their name on a Facebook profile?" said Horton according to Vancouversun.com.

"Identify verification is one of the biggest problems; it's a huge issue online."

She also notes that there are cases in Canada where pedophiles have been barred from internet usage. However, that was done through conditions on parole or bail release, and not through legislation.

People could still find ways to breach the restrictions.

"I remember a particular case I got called on," she said. "The guy was accessing and luring children through the public library," she said.

Terms of service for various social networking sites vary.

If anyone who is on the sex offender registry list is identifies as a user on Facebook, law enforcement is notified and the account is disabled, the statement said.

In the U.S., citizens can access lists of registered sex offenders. However in Canada, National Sex Offender Registry isn't made public and Facebook cannot carry out similar searches for sex offenders among Canadian users, the report said.

"We believe that in order to achieve a safer Internet, governments should give consideration to new and more effective ways to share information about registered sex offenders with social networks," Facebook wrote in response to The Sun's question about whether it is able to search out sex offenders signing on to its site in Canada. The statement said the model has been widely deployed by the attorneys-general of several U.S. states "and led to the removal of such individuals from these services."

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