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Our View: Let’s keep our kids safe online

Posted: June 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

State Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Antelope Valley, is shown in this Jan. 11 photo. Runner is a sponsor of Senate Bill 57, which requires registered sex offenders to register social-media information, along with residential addresses.

It seems the entire known world is now part of the social-media Internet craze; it’s possible to communicate with just about anyone anywhere at any time.

However, with great connectivity comes great responsibility.

It’s so easy to access Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social-media sites, and so many millions of people do so. But there is inherently a dark side to these services in the form of sexual predators targeting unknowing victims.

That’s why state Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Antelope Valley, has sponsored Senate Bill 57, which would mandate that all registered sex offenders in California also register their social-media accounts with law enforcement each year, along with their addresses and vehicle information.

This, we believe, is a good move. Keeping tabs on those with sex-based crime histories is a necessary protection for society now that kids have nearly unlimited — even portable — Internet access.

We also commend social-media sites doing their best to self-police. Facebook removed some 5,500 registered sex offenders from its site in early 2009, and MySpace has deleted accounts for more than 90,000 registered sex offenders in the last few years.

But that’s not enough.

Runner’s SB 57 joins other states’ legislation in the effort to keep sexual predators away from children.

Like New York, California registered sex offenders aren’t outright barred from going to Facebook and the like, but they have to embrace a moment of reflection before doing so.

A few other states, including Louisiana, are considering bills to ban registered sex offenders from social media sites entirely, and Illinois has already done so.

Though SB 57 may prove hard to enforce, given that most deviant behavior is generally under a thick layer of secrecy, we’re in favor of that extra protection of the law for California’s children.

We support anything that can help law enforcement keep our youth safe in cyberspace, as well as on the streets.

This Senate bill is yet another in a series of tough-on-crime measures from the Runner team, which includes former Sen. and current Board of Equalization member George Runner.

In 2006, when in the state Assembly, Sharon Runner and then-Sen. George Runner founded Proposition 83 — California’s version of Jessica’s Law. It states that any sex offenders convicted of engaging in a sexual act with anyone under the age of 14 receives a mandatory minimum prison sentence, which varies according to the severity of the crime.

Prop 83 also requires that all registered sex offenders wear GPS units for life and prohibits them from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

In 2002, when in the state Senate, George Runner was the author of California’s AMBER Alert system, which employs the state emergency alert system to inform law enforcement and the general public about child abductions.

The system has led to many successful outcomes of otherwise dire situations for abducted children.

We expect SB 57, which has passed in the Senate, to likewise win overwhelming approval in the coming Assembly vote.

And we look forward to the day social media innovators create the means to more effectively monitor cyberspace themselves to keep our children safe wherever they venture, digitally or otherwise.


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