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Government Printing Office Internet: bookstore. Marventano, Staff Director James D. Barnette, General Counsel Reid P. Parente subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 1 p. Fred Upton chairman presiding. Members present: Representatives Upton and Bass. Good afternoon everyone. I want to pay particular thanks to Dr. Marilyn Schlack and Bruce Koper for making sure that everything worked out terrific in having us here today.
As the subcommittee chairman and parent of two young children parentx use the Internet at home for both school, work and fun, there are few issues that are more important than making sure that our kids are protected on-line. I felt it was vitally important to hold this hearing not in Washington DC, but in Kalamazoo to help spread the word to the families of Southwest Michigan that sadly we pzrents not immune from the ugly underside of chat rooms and that we can and must fight back against those on-line sexual predators who seek to sneak into our homes via the home computer and do harm to our.
When a chaat comes to your door and knocks on it, you can teach your kids to look out the window or through the peephole and see who it is before they decide whether or not to unlock the door and let that individual in. You teach them never to open the door to a stranger. Also you can always teach your kids not to talk to strangers outside in the street. But in this age of home computers and the Internet, parents parentz not necessarily have that luxury or security anymore.
Pedophiles and sexual predators have figured that out and they have made chat rooms their latest stalking ground.
Alarmingly, national surveys suggest that 1 in 5, 20 percent, of young Internet users have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via on-line chat rooms. In the Southwest Michigan area alone, we have had a of tragic examples. A 21 year old college student has been accused of having sex with three Richmond girls, a 14 year old and two 13 year olds, whom he met on-line. A 23 year old Oregon man pled guilty to crossing State lines to have sex with a 13 year old girl from Kalamazoo; they met in a chat room.
A 34 year foor Brooklyn man, who claimed to be a 17 year cnat boy, was sentenced last August for having sex with a 14 year old girl from Paarents.
They met on-line, traded photos of each other, and had conversations about sex. These are but a few examples of how evil sexual predators are preying on our communities and we know there are many more. Today we will hear from a of witnesses including Katie Tarbox, a young woman who has the courage to step forward to tell her terrifying story of how, when she was in her early teens, she was preyed upon by an adult who used a chat room to take advantage of her.
She is telling her story so that parents and children in Southwest Michigan can learn lessons from her experiences and hopefully avoid such dangers on-line. She is to be commended for her courage and I know that this is not praents for her.
We will also hear from John Karraker, father of a Kalamazoo teenager, who was also preyed upon by an adult on-line. John is stepping forward today to provide his perspective in hopes of helping other fathers and mothers protect their. He is not only a father, but also a Public Safety Officer here in Kalamazoo. He knows that if it can happen in the house of a Public Safety Officer, it can happen in any house.
He is testifying today solely in his capacity as a dad. Given that he courageously puts his life on the line in the service of our community every single day, it should come as no surprise that he is using his off-duty time to be with us today to help our community protect kids on-line. Other witnesses include Mr. I really want to thank all of our out-of-town witnesses for traveling great distances to be with us today. I have voted for and Congress has passed several laws in an attempt to protect kids from some dangers on-line.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court recently struck down one of those laws which banned virtual child pornography. Virtual child pornography looks just like the real stuff, but it is generated by a computer. However, I am an original co-sponsor of a measure that rewrites the law to pass constitutional muster in light of the Court's ruling. I understand that the House will have this legislation up on the House floor next week.
The Court's decision follows on the heels of the Court's decision to strike down those portions of the Communications Decency Act which had made it illegal to send pornography to children via the Internet. Still pending in the courts is the Children's Internet Protection Act, which requires schools and libraries that receive Federal funding to employ Internet filtering software and have written Internet safety policies to protect children from indecent material.
Let us hope for a comeback in the Courts. But even those laws did not address the problem of protecting kids from the dangers of chatting on-line. Getting into one of those chat rooms is easier than getting on a bike, but I would argue that it is much more dangerous. Just like we have dot-com and dot- org, we will have dot-kids. It will be in essence like ren's section of the library, where parents could send their kids to be safe on-line. Chat rooms would be banned in the dot-kids space unless they were specifically deed and operated to protect children from harm, and the content in the chat room is both suitable for children under 13 and not harmful to them.
I expect this Bill to be on the House floor for vote next week as well.
However, even with all of these measures, the bottom line is that there is no better protection from on-line dangers than proper parental supervision. This means that we, as parents, need to become better aware of the dangers and how to avoid them. Then we must also teach our. So today's chaat is deed to help us accomplish this mission around the country, particularly here in Southwest Michigan. I also want to welcome a friend and dad, Congressman Charlie Bass, to Kalamazoo.
He is a member of this subcommittee from New Hampshire. He has traveled a great distance to be with us. He cares deeply about the issue.
With that, I recognize my friend and colleague, Mr. I thank you, Mr.
Chairman, and I would like to associate myself with your remarks which were right on mark. This hearing is taking place here in Michigan, but vhat could easily take place in any community anywhere in the country, including anywhere in my district, anywhere where children can have access to the Internet and communicate.
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Like all communication issues, I have discovered that they are so complex that there are never any clearly definable issues or solutions. One has to examine First Amendment rights and the ability to communicate. One has to look at the issues of the fact that the Internet is really one of the greatest technological inventions of the late 20th, early 21st century which will probably keep America ahead for many, many decades to come.
However, as my friend from Michigan here mentioned, there are some very dark and unpleasant sides to this new technology, most notably the issue that we are discussing here today. It is my hope that we can discuss issues, such as whether or not the criminal justice system is adequately prepared to be responsive and to deal with what will undoubtedly be a growing problem in society; what efforts are underway to teach and prepare children to deal with chat rooms, especially children that may not understand the implications of the types of discussions and the motives of sexual predators when they get in a chat room environment; and most importantly, the issue of how communities and parents deal with children that are exposed to this kind of environment.
I had the pleasure of having lunch with Katie before we appeared here today, and she was kind enough to give me a copy of her book to read, which I will. I believe in this book one of the issues that is discussed is how she was ostracized by her own community and her own friends and other parents after this event occurred. I know that is not strictly within the jurisdiction of this subcommittee, but I think that it is something that all of us need to think about carefully because we are not going to move forward and deal with this issue until we, as society, are willing to accept the fact that it can happen to anybody, in Michigan or New Hampshire or anywhere else in the country.
And there may be policy solutions, but as Congressman Upton said, it is parents, families, and communities that bear the ultimate responsibility for solving and dealing with these problems. With that, I yield back, Mr. Thank you very much.
Our members and become a part of an amazing community.
Our first witness is Ms. Katie Tarbox. Katie, the time is yours. I am very pleased to be here today.
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I am only 20 years old and I have to say that when I first began this fight, as I will call it, in trying to help the education regarding Internet dangers, this has always been one of my goals. I am happy to be here encouraging legislation and whatnot. I believe it is the right step and going in the right direction. I have probably told my story now over times. I go around the country speaking and I have sometimes written it out, char I always feel that the best way to tell my story is just by telling it raw.
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People can read my written testimony, but even though this happened 7 years ago, I want people to see that there are raw emotions and that this did deeply affect me and my family and my community. I was thirteen years old when I first started using the Internet. I had some idea about what a modem was, but I did not really understand what it was. I just knew that it made some funny noises and that paents could connect me to millions of other people in the country.
My family thought that we were ing up for the Internet to buy airplane tickets, and my sister was going to do a college search. Perhaps we could shop, and, you know, we could go into chat rooms.
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I had learned about the Internet at school. We were doing an Everglades project connected with CNN and we were connected with other classrooms. The way that we had used the Internet was that we would go into chat rooms to talk to other kids about what they were doing. So my introduction to the Internet was that this was a place where you go on the computer, and you would meet people and you would go into chat rooms.
Quite honestly, I thought that was all that America Online had to offer me because it was the thing that was most boldly advertised when you would on. I started going into teen chat rooms. I did not use them that much, maybe about an hour a day.
I was a very active. I was a high honors student.
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I was a national swimmer. I played piano. I was in my select chorus at school, and one of the things that the Internet offered me was that, while I was pretty busy, if I could not call my friends at 11 o'clock at night, I could go on the Internet and my parents thought that it was a great thing. You know, I could go and talk to other kids, maybe fkr Florida about swimming, or I could talk to them about music.