Child Advocates: Parents shouldn’t dwell on court ruling for sex offenders

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Many parents have expressed anger that a federal court has reversed an Indiana law banning sex offenders from social networking sites, but some local child advocates and law enforcement officers say relying on the law to protect kids from online danger wasn’t realistic.

Shanna Martin is getting ready to talk to her daughter about internet safety, despite the fact that she’s just 7 years old.

“It’s happening. My daughter is in the second grade and she has friends that have their own smart phone,” she said. “Her Christmas list included an iPad, so it’s time for us to start having those conversations about what she is and is not to do on the computer.”

Martin knows it’s time because, as a prevention director for the Marion County Commission on Youth, she knows the reality children face often before parents are ready.

“The statistics are that one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused,” Martin said. “It’s something that parents really need to be aware of. Social media has increased predators’ ability to have access to kids.”

Though Indiana legislators sought to decrease that ability by banning registered sex offenders from using Facebook and other social networking sites, child advocates and even some law enforcement officers say the Supreme Court’s reversal shouldn’t be the focus for parents.

“Protecting your child from sex offenders starts at home and with the rules that you set,” said Greennwood Detective Sergeant Eric Klinkowski. “You can’t expect somebody else to do that for you. You have to start yourself and then there’s a response when things go wrong.”

Klinkowski has been investigating cyber crimes against children for more than 10 years and says predators, including many registered sex offenders, will find ways to use social media regardless of the law.

“The number one thing that we need to do is not live in denial that they exist,” Klinkowski said. “And not live in denial that it can happen to us.”

“It’s tough and it’s a challenge. Predators are out there and they’re always going to find a way to prey on children,” Martin said. “As a parent, I find that it’s my responsibility to make sure that my child is educated and empowered.”

Martin has a few tips for parents looking to protect their kids online:

  • Keep Computers in Open Spaces
  • Control Your Child’s Privacy Settings
  • “Friend” or “Follow” Your Kids
  • Sign an Internet Agreement

You can find much more information on protecting your kids from sexual predators at the Marion County Commission on Youth at Darkness to Light.

If you suspect an online predator is luring a child, you can notify the Greenwood Police Department online.

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  • Duane

    Part of the problem is too many parents want everyone else to raise & keep their kids safe, instead of them being responsible & doing it themselves.

  • Really?

    What?? Criminals don't obey the law??? You mean I have to be a parent?? No way!!! Tha's why I bought my 10 year old an Ipad…So I don't have to watch her…

  • Abathar

    It wasn't that it was going to ever stop them, but it was one more charge that could be filed against them if they were caught and prosecuted.

    It could have taken them off the street longer, that was what it was good for.

  • cherokee49

    The article is great, in the respect that it encourages parents to actually parent their children. What was completely left out, however, is the fact that children are far more likely to be victimized by someone close to them. So why aren't parents also being encouraged to educate their children on how to avoid victimization by people whom they love and trust? Monitoring them on the internet will not stop Uncle John from buying their silence with gifts (or veiled threats). Learn the signs of grooming and teach your child what to watch for. Many are violated and refuse to tell because they have been made to feel that what is happening is OK "because that is how you show someone you love them", or that if it makes them feel bad, it is somehow their fault for "letting" it happen. Teach your child to respect themselves and how important it is for them to confide in you if something doesn't seem right.

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