Mar 022006
 
Authors: Legislative intern Janel Sutton

Our younger generation is not only being exposed to the ever-increasing educational resource that is the Internet, but also to the downside of it. Think about walking into a room where your little brother or sister was surfing the Web only to witness an Instant Message conversation where a 45-year old man was communicating sexually explicit phrases with your sibling and even inviting them to meet for a sexual purpose.

According to www.whitehouse.gov, research by the "University of New Hampshire found that one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 received a sexual solicitation over the Internet in the last year." It is because of statistics like this that John Suthers, attorney general of Colorado, has pushed for an agenda that would promote a safer online environment for children. The Internet can be used as a remarkable educational resource, but the wrong people can also use it for very distasteful purposes.

An undercover policeman who poses as a child in chat rooms in order to catch pedophiles online testified in the House Judiciary Committee. His testimony included a live online chat room demonstration with dramatic results. Within only four minutes of logging on, a potential sexual predator made contact with him.

Rep. McCluskey is sponsoring House Bill 1011 that deals with this problem for Suthers. House Bill 1011 will increase the criminal penalty for the possession of 20 or more articles of child pornography from a misdemeanor to a felony. It will make it a criminal offense to be in a chat room having a sexually explicit conversation continuing with an invitation for the child to meet. The third aspect of this bill will make it a felony to send live video that contains indecent exposure through the use of Web cameras.

Under current Colorado law, it is a misdemeanor if a person sets up a meeting for a sexual purpose, but a meeting must actually occur in order for this law to apply. This puts the child at-risk of being exposed to sexual contact they will have to deal with for the rest of their life. The advantage of the new legislation is that it will make it easier to apprehend a predator before the encounter is allowed to take place. With the implementation of HB06-1011, it would make it possible and easier to prosecute pedophiles in a more efficient manner.

By increasing the consequences for the possession of 20 or more images of child pornography, this will limit the ability to distribute the images through live video feeds. In turn, it will help save many young children from being exposed at an early age to sexual predators who are on the prowl to take advantage of na///ve children.

The Internet has quickly become one of the most efficient and useful means of communication, but this also creates a rise in opportunities for predators to have contact with young people. The use of Internet is the younger generation's trademark and will continue to have a rising number of users. While some children are aware of the potential dangers they are exposed to when logging on, all are not. For those children who are unconscious to the risks they are taking when chatting with someone online, HB-1011 will help to protect them from potential exposure to sexual contact and exploitation. Hopefully the increase in penalties will contribute to an Internet that is safer for your younger brothers and sisters who are becoming more technologically adept than any previous generation.

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