Question: Don’t a lot of kids use social media sites (like Facebook)?
Yes, upon being hit with a civil rights class action lawsuit—filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana on behalf of sex offenders—the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned a decision made last June that upheld an Indiana law barring most registered sex offenders from using social networking websites.
The law had been in place since 2008—and, according to a press release issued by the ACLU-IN, Indiana already has a law that prohibits inappropriate communication with children, which in theory would cover social media.
The ACLU of Indiana had argued that the ban was so broad that it prevented someone who might have been convicted of an offense years ago from engaging in even innocent conversations on social media channels. This meant that a sex offender could not only not engage in conversation on Facebook, but also could not post a resume on LinkedIn, or as Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU-IN was quoted as pointing out, “It would even bar someone who was convicted 40 years ago from participating in a Twitter feed with the pope.”
Now, given the amount of press on alleged predatory behavior within the church over the past few years, I’m not sure Mr. Falk used the best social media example—go ahead and cock your head to the side and raise an eyebrow as you ponder that one for a minute—go ahead, I’ll wait for you.
Now admittedly, I haven’t studied recidivism among sex offenders, but I do ascribe to the “leopards don’t change their spots” view of life—for the most part. Here, however, are some stats from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on sex offender recidivism for sex offenders who were released from prison in 1994:
Presents, for the first time, data on the rearrest, reconviction, and reimprisonment of 9,691 male sex offenders, including 4,295 child molesters, who were tracked for 3 years after their release from prisons in 15 States in 1994. The 9,691 are two-thirds of all the male sex offenders released from prisons in the United States in 1994. The study represents the largest followup ever conducted of convicted sex offenders following discharge from prison and provides the most comprehensive assessment of their behavior after release.
Something else I know is that putting a kid in a candy store is a surefire way to watch a full-blown sugar rush play out. Personal views or hypotheses aside, Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions points out on his “Grow” blog,
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are approximately 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, a number that has soared 23 percent in five years, in part due to web-based predatory behavior.
Hmm. You thinking what I’m thinking? That maybe, just maybe, there’s a lot of predatory targeting going on online, what with numbers like those?
Well, for now at least, the decision is being reviewed by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller—he’ll assess the state’s options regarding the ruling. Let’s hope his assessment includes the recollection of why the sex offender social media laws was put into place in the first place: to protect our kids.
More to come on this one…