Daniel K. InouyeSenatorWithout question, the Internet provides extraordinary benefits to our nation’s children. In our schools, teachers use the Internet and computer technology to enhance instruction and enrich student learning. At home, children can use the Internet to exchange email or share pictures with friends and family, and to get information on virtually any subject imaginable.But the power of the Internet is also a source of its peril. The New Yorker once humorously poked fun at the anonymity of the Internet, commenting that "On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog." However, there is nothing funny when that same anonymity can be used to the advantage of online predators and others who would seek to harm children.In addition to protecting their children from online predators, parents also struggle with the challenges of shielding their children from the significant amounts of material on the Internet that are unsuitable for children.While filtering and monitoring technologies help parents to screen out offensive content and to monitor their child’s online activities, the use of these technologies is far from universal and may not be fool-proof in keeping kids away from adult material.In that context, we must evaluate our current efforts to combat child pornography and consider what further measures may be needed to stop the spread of such illegal material over high-speed broadband connections.These are all difficult, yet critically important issues that parents and children face in an information age. If we search for a "silver bullet" solution, we will not find it.Rather, our efforts must rely on a multi-layered strategy – one that teaches our children about safe and responsible online behavior; one that encourages industry action to develop tools that will aid parents in their efforts to restrict inappropriate material from their children’s access; and one that relies on swift and certain action by law enforcement officials in finding and punishing those who would use the Internet to harm children.We have a very distinguished panel of witnesses today to aid our review of this subject. I look forward to their testimony.
The Internet is a dynamic space where Americans turn to get information, do research, and exchange ideas.
Given the increasingly important role of the Internet in education and commerce, it differs from other media like TV and cable because parents cannot prevent their children from using the Internet altogether. The headlines continue to tell us of children who are victimized online. While the issues are difficult, I believe Congress has an important role to play to ensure that the protections available in other parts of our society find their way to the Internet. Since introducing the Protecting Children Online in the 21st Century Act, my staff and I have worked with a wide variety of advocacy groups on this topic. In response to the feedback we have received, my staff are currently circulating a new draft wth four primary goals.
The new measure would:
· direct the Federal Communications Commission to identify industry practices that can limit the transmission of child pornography;
· require schools that receive E-Rate funds to provide age-appropriate education to their students regarding online behavior, social networking and cyberbullying;
· require the Federal Trade Commission to form a working group to identify blocking and filtering technologies in use and identify, what, if anything could be done to improve the process and better enable parents to proactively protect their children online; and
· add the selling or purchasing of children’s personal information in connection with a criminal offense in the criminal code as an indictable offense.
I hope the panelists can give us more insight on what we can do within the First Amendment to empower parents and whether this bill heads in the right direction.
Witness Panel 1
Miss America 2007 Lauren NelsonMiss America 2007 Lauren NelsonTuesday, July 24, 2007My name is Lauren Nelson and as Miss America 2007, I am proud to be here today to discuss the issue of Protecting Children on the Internet. This is a subject that has personally touched my life. When I was 13 years old, my friends and I were approached on the Internet through a chat room. We were young and did not know of the dangers of the internet, so we provided this person with our names, ages, gender, and our home addresses. A few days later, the individual sent us inappropriate photos. We were shocked and disgusted. We then told our parents, who immediately addressed this incident and reported it to the proper authorities, and luckily we were able to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.Not all children are as lucky as my friends and I were.As Miss America 2007, I have made this issue my personal platform and I am here today to champion this cause. During my year of service, I am visiting cities across the country, speaking to parents, children and the media about the dangers of the internet and the ways we can incorporate Internet Safety into our children's lives.Back in the April, I had the opportunity to meet with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who shared with me their knowledge of internet crimes against children. They introduced me to John Walsh and the television producers for Americas Most Wanted. After meeting with the producers of AMW, my commitment grew even stronger to do something that would bring national attention to this issue and get people talking about ways to stop these horrible crimes against children.When I heard about the Sting Operation being conducted by the Suffolk County Police Department and America’s Most Wanted, I immediately wanted to get involved. My role in the Sting Operation was to pose as a 14-year old girl. I would visit chat rooms and wait to be approached. It was shocking to me how quickly a benign conversation would turn sexual. The suggestions these men were making coupled with the fact that they thought they were chatting with a 14-year old, turns my stomach to this day. It was incredibly disturbing to me how young teens can so easily be approached on the internet and ultimately, meet face to face with very dangerous individuals who disguise themselves through the veil of the computer. Eleven predators showed up in person during our Sting Operation … and this can not be tolerated in our society.Upon my last visit to DC, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Teen Summit on Internet Safety with John Walsh and we were amazed at the teens' responses to the questions regarding their internet habits. Can you believe that one out of fourteen teens gives out their personal information on the internet without knowing who they are chatting with?It is clear that our teens are not adequately educated on the dangers that the Internet can pose or the consequences they may face by sharing personal information with strangers. That is the reason I am here today.I believe it is time to government to get involved and provide mandatory education for all of our children. We need to begin educating children as early as possible. We have all heard someone say "My kids/grandkids are quicker on the computer then I am." It's so true. Kids today are growing up using computers from a very early age and using them on a daily basis. We don't allow our children to ride their bikes without first teaching them about proper safety and we shouldn't let them use the computer and access the Internet without taking the same precautions.I am here today to ask you to please implement mandatory education on Internet Safety for all of our children. There should be a mandatory class on internet safety that teaches children about how to use the internet, the potential dangers of the internet, and how to avoid these dangers.As students become more proficient on the computer, they should be taught about the various networking sites and chat rooms, and the problems that can occur when they mis-use these sites.Lastly, they should also learn about being responsible cyber citizens. The issue of cyber-bullying is a growing problem in our schools today and it must be addressed now. The bullies have moved from the playgrounds to the internet, and this new form of harassment cannot be tolerated.Through proper education, awareness and a national effort supported by our legislators, we can all begin to make a difference. I sincerely hope that by using my voice as Miss America to bring awareness to this subject, that the message of the importance of Internet Safety education for our children will be heard. Thank you.**************
Dr. David FinkelhorDirector, Crimes Against Children Research CenterHorton Social Sciences Center, University of New Hampshire
Mr. Ernie AllenPresident and Chief Executive OfficerNational Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Mr. Lan W. NeugentAssistant Superintendent for Technology and Human ResourcesVirginia Department of Education
Ms. Christine N. JonesGeneral Counsel and Corporate SecretaryThe Go Daddy Group, Inc.