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The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing in my home town yesterday: "Chatting On-Line: A Dangerous Proposition for Children." Six witnesses came to Kalamazoo, Michigan and described the perils of on-line chat to Rep. Personally, I like the idea of us, though some disagree.
The most surprising and welcome news of the afternoon was that, despite the alarmist title, there was The hearing launched with Congressman Upton touting his internet record -- notably the domain, now us.
The preferred pickup method for child molesters nowadays is the internet: chat, instant-messaging, and email. " and "your parents were in an accident, I'll drive you to the hospital" -- those are yesterday's news.
The witnesses were Katie Tarbox, who in 1995, at age 13, had been inadequately briefed on the "rules of the net" and disasterously agreed to meet a child predator she'd chatted with online; two local law enforcement personnel, John Karraker and Jim Gregart; Ruben Rodriguez, the Director of the Exploited Child Unit for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Caroline Curtin, the Director of Children's Policy for AOL; and Kathleen Tucker, the Director of Curriculum Development for I-Safe America.
Everyone was concerned about keeping children safe online.
Finally, I traded several emails with one girl who had chatted online extensively for years, and has met in person "at least 10 or so" other kids whom she first found on AOL -- including a meeting with some boys from another state. But, not only was her protocol for establishing trust detailed and thorough -- paranoid even -- but she readily explained to me her reasoning for each step along the way.
She's a poster child for "education and empowerment." And I doubt she's unique: to know nowadays.
I do not see chatting on-line as being dangerous, or otherwise harmful.