Earlier this week, a North Jersey convicted sex offender was jailed again after authorities discovered he was using social media under three different aliases. When the accused was last released from jail, a condition of his release was that he was banned for using social media sites. Strike two for him. I’m not sure whether he used a known email address to establish the accounts, but if he had gone to greater lengths to elude the authorities, he probably would have been successful.
Also in the news this week, NJ State Assemblywoman Donna Simon recently introduced legislation that would allow for stiffer penalties for convicted sex offenders if they do use social media post release under certain conditions. According to Assemblywoman Simon:
“Sex offenders are very sneaky and despicable. What they will do is they will have a myriad of screen names and other identities to use for communicating to children.”
Included in the is the requirement that sex offenders provide authorities with screen names, email addresses and aliases used for social networking and chat rooms, and to disclose in their online profiles that they are in fact a convicted sexual predator as well as other personal details. Violators would be subject to fines and additional jail time.
It’s feel good legislation so I get why there doing it, but I hope nobody believes that it’s going to work. Assemblywoman Simon herself says that sex offenders are sneaky. All a sex offender, or anyone else, needs to establish new, anonymous or pseudonymous social media account is a new email address. Unless a given sex offender is under heavy duty cyber surveillance, the chances of authorities catching them if they are trying to stay hidden are next to zero.
If a single parent believes that their son or daughter is safe making new connections online as long as the new friend’s profile doesn’t disclose sex offender status, we’ve failed. The false sense of security that could result would definitely be an unintended consequence.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.