Monday, March 17, 2008

New Hampshire Senate Committee Asked to Protect Children from Online Predators

On Monday, Governor John Lynch asked the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee to continue the state's efforts to protect children from sexual predators by supporting the Online Child Safety Act.

The legislation, developed with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, the Attorney General and New Hampshire's law enforcement community, modernizes the state's laws to better protect children from sexual predators who use the Internet. The legislation builds on the Child Protection Act passed in 2006, which is one of the country's toughest laws to protect children from sexual predators.

"People who prey on our children are among the most dangerous criminals. They target our most precious and our most vulnerable citizens," Lynch said. "We will not allow sexual predators to hide in the shadows of cyberspace. We must modernize our laws to protect our children from the threats of the 21st century."

With greater access to the Internet and advancing technology, children are increasingly exposed to graphic online images and unwanted solicitations. Research has shown that despite the use of filters, blockers and software monitoring, unwanted exposure to sexual material on the Internet has increased over the last five years.

"We must make sure we have the laws we need to protect our children from the threats of the 21st century," Lynch said.

The bill strengthens the penalties in existing law for enticing a child over the Internet, and provides enhanced penalties for repeat offenders; it overhauls and expands existing child pornography laws to better reflect the victimization that occurs everyday when images of sexually abused children are created and distributed; and it closes a loophole so that sex offenders using Web cams can be held accountable.

This legislation is just one piece of a comprehensive effort to make New Hampshire a safer place for our children.

Lynch worked with lawmakers, the attorney general and the state's police chiefs two years ago to craft one of the toughest and most comprehensive child protection laws in the nation.

This year, the state added an Internet crimes prosecutor in the Attorney General's Office was created to address this issue. The state is also continuing its efforts to help educate parents and children about the potential dangers lurking on the Internet.

"Parents are the most important people in protecting children from online predators. By monitoring their children's on-line activities, parents can help prevent exposure to sexually explicit material and unwanted solicitation from adults," Lynch said. "However, we realize the Internet is becoming easier to access everyday and a child can access the Internet from just about anywhere -- without parental supervision. With this legislation, we are both helping parents and taking another important step forward in making our state a safer place for all our children."

Senate Bill 495 is sponsored by Sens. Joe Foster, Bob Letourneau and Betsi DeVries; Reps. David Welch and William Knowles.

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