Today at Naperville's Nichols Public Library, U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) announced the introduction of her new bill to ensure that children exploring the Internet are protected from online predators and other threats. Introduced with cosponsor Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-22), the Protecting Our Children Online Act will require that schools and libraries that allow children to access the Internet also provide them with basic instruction on how to avoid common online dangers.
"The unfortunate reality is that one in seven children are approached with an unwanted sexual solicitation while online," said Biggert, Co-Chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. "And parents can't always be there to supervise when their child is using the Internet at school, in the library, or even at home."
"The best way to ensure children are guarded against online predators is to teach them how to recognize inappropriate activity and avoid putting themselves at risk," said Biggert.
Currently, federal law provides schools and libraries with discounted Internet access through the Universal Service Fund's E-Rate program. Biggert's bill will require that schools and libraries receiving subsidized Internet service also educate children about safe online behavior. Teachers and librarians will be given the flexibility to choose the most effective means for instructing children, but the lessons will focus on the safe use of social networking websites, chat rooms, instant messaging, and e-mail as well as awareness of and response to cyberbullying.
"Kids want to use the Internet - it's fun and it opens up a whole world but it's also dangerous," said Biggert. "Just like teaching children to look both ways before crossing the street, we must give them the basic instruction they need to avoid common dangers when browsing the web."
A long-time advocate for Internet safety, Biggert secured enactment of the first bill she introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 creating the national Cybertipline, which makes it easier to report and track down computer-based sex crimes against children. In the 110th Congress, Biggert also is the lead Republican sponsor of H.R. 2517, the Protecting Our Children Comes First Act of 2007, which will reauthorize the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and increase federal resources for protecting and assisting missing children and their families. H.R. 2517 has passed both the House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law soon.