California lawmaker pushes bill to get sex offenders off social media Web sites

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A couple of California lawmakers want to make it illegal for registered sex offenders to use social media websites where kids might hang out. They got the support of Santa Ana’s police chief and others during a news conference in Santa Ana today.

State Assemblywoman Norma Torres compares today’s social media sites – like MySpace and Facebook – to the playgrounds of yesterday. Kids like to hang out there.

So Torres has written legislation that would require registered sex offenders to stay off social media sites that children use.

Seems like it might be tough to enforce. But Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters says it would be a deterrent for registered sex offenders.

"So now you go into their mindset," says Walters. "'They already know who I am and where I live. If I go on this Web site and they find out, I’m going back to jail.' And that’s a big part of it. So it’s not just a tool to catch them after the fact. It’s a tool to make them pay attention that you can’t go do this, you can’t go use this Web site because you have this prior history."

Assemblywoman Torres says enforcement of the law relies on parents to keep an eye out and report problems to police.

The Pomona Democrat says parents have to educate their kids on how to use the Internet and monitor who their online friends are. Torres says she’s gone through that with her 17-year-old son.

"Parents need to be more vigorous about supervision of their children, not allowing computers in their bedrooms, having computers in the kitchen, in more public areas of the home where you know the family is always around and looking at what their children are doing," Torres says.

Torres says she hopes her bill will make it to the governor’s desk within about six months. The bill has the support of the police chiefs of Santa Ana and Anaheim, along with Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris.

If the governor signs the bill, it would make it a misdemeanor for sex offenders to use social media sites where kids are likely to be. That would carry a sentence of up to a year in county jail.

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