Legislation Would Limit Youth Access to Social Networking Sites

Congressman Michael G. Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., has introduced legislation to fight child predators attempting to contact children who use online social networks in schools and libraries. The legislation would require schools and libraries to implement security systems to prevent students from being exposed to obscene and objectionable material.

The bill would also restrict access to social networking sites to those under the age of 18.

More than 76 million people are registered on Myspace alone, which has become the sixth most popular English language Web site in the world in only three years. According to a statement released by Fitzpatrick, however, in excess of 200,000 objective profiles have been removed from the site and age restrictions for registering can easily be foiled. Many profiles of students contain their names, photos, schedules and contact information – all dangerous openings for sexual predators to exploit.

Beyond addressing these sites in schools and libraries, Fitzpatrick’s legislation would mandate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a Web site with a distinctive uniform resource locator to be used as a resource for parents, teachers, school officials and others regarding the dangers on the Internet to child users. This Web site would include information about MySpace and other social networking sites, how they are used and what should not be included in a user’s profile.

The FTC would also be responsible for issuing consumer alerts to parents, teachers, school officials and others regarding the potential dangers of Internet predators and their ability to contact children through MySpace.com and other social networking sites.

“As the father of 6 children, I hear about these websites on a daily basis,” Fitzpatrick said. “However, the majority of these networking sites lack proper controls to protect their younger users. Also, many parents lack the resources to protect their children from online predators. My legislation seeks to change that.”

The FTC has already published a list of tips for parents to use when discussing Internet use with their children. The tip sheet can be downloaded by visiting the FTC’s Web site at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/tech/tec14.htm.

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is serving his first term as Representative of the 8th District of Pennsylvania, which includes Bucks County and portions of Montgomery County and Philadelphia.

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