Briana Heaney Published

Senate Bill Aims To Keep Children Safe From Sextortion

A millennial age woman waves her hand saying hello on a video call on her computer at home. The woman had yellow headphones and wears a gray hoodie and black glasses.Mariia Korneeva/Adobe Stock

Today the Senate passed a bill aimed at helping children stay safer from internet predators and cyberbullies. 

Senate Bill 466 would require the West Virginia Board of Education to create an annual safety course curriculum about accessing technology for children and teenagers. The program would be in collaboration with law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and other organizations that deal with human trafficking and child online safety issues. 

The program would focus on safe and responsible use of social networking including online messaging, the risks of transmitting personal information online, copyright laws, the importance of establishing open communication with adults like school counselors and teachers, and how to recognize and avoid suspicious or dangerous online communication or activities with cyberbullies and predators.  

Sen. Laura Chapman, R-Ohio, said the bill is in place to protect children from things like sextortion. That is when a minor communicates with a predator in an elicit or sexual manner and then is later extorted. She said the bill is also to open pathways of communication between minors and resources to help them if they have been a victim of online predation or cyberbullying. 

“This bill addresses online bullying, it addresses Human Trafficking Awareness, addresses child pornography dissemination,” Chapman said, “Because oftentimes children don’t realize when they take a nude photo of themselves, and then send it to a love interest, that they are actually committing dissemination of child pornography.”

She said this bill will help children know what to look out for if somebody’s trying to exploit them. She said keeping children safe online and having resources available for them if they are exploited can be a matter of life or death. 

“I recently came across an issue where children would send nude photos to someone that they thought was a love interest and ended up being somebody who just wanted to extort them,” Chapman said. “Oftentimes those children commit suicide.” 

Chapman said that children, their parents and teachers need to be aware of these risks and be able to recognize signs that a child is facing harm on the internet. She said it’s also important children know they have resources available to them in their communities if they do fall victim to cyber bullying or sexual exploitation. 

 Parents will have the option to opt children out of this training. 

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration.