National Association of Attorneys General

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Attorneys General Convene to Discuss Children and the Internet

Hedda Litwin, NAAG Cybercrime Counsel

“While the Internet offers our children greater knowledge of our world, it also exposes them to danger from harmful influences, and from individuals who seek to take advantage of them and hurt them,” said National Association of Attorneys General President and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch at the opening of his “Year of the Child: Protecting and Empowering the Next Generation” Summit in May. He was joined by Attorneys General from across the country, academics, Internet service providers and other stakeholders as they addressed strategies to empower children and their parents on the safe use of online technology.

The Summit, held in Philadelphia on May 12-13, provided an overview of the latest developments, research and challenges on keeping children safe on the Internet. Guest speakers included Rear Admiral Steven Galson, acting surgeon general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Ernie Allen, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; David Finklehor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center and co-director of the Family Research Center at the University of New Hampshire; and Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart on behalf of radKIDS.

Attorneys General participated in several of the Summit sessions. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster presented a case study of the Megan Meier suicide and the resulting state legislation. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna discussed their Internet safety initiatives on a panel entitled “Getting the Word Out on E-Safety: Outreach, Education and Partnerships.” Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood presented “Operation Fairplay,” a new software package that targets purveyors of child pornography.

Other Summit highlights included a presentation by Frontline producer Rachel Dretzin on her film, “Growing Up in a Digital World,” and The Alicia Project by Alicia Kozakiewicz.

As the Summit concluded, President Lynch noted that the work on this issue would continue.As the chief legal officers in our jurisdictions, we must continue to push for legislation, prosecute Internet predators and work with social networking sites to ensure the safety of our children, “he said.

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