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We live in two different worlds– the virtual world and the physical world. The two cross quite often and may even blur a little. It’s true, the virtual world over powers our physical surroundings more often than we think. We can learn about a person’s entire history, what they enjoy eating, their address and phone number without ever meeting them.

There are certain rules though, right? I doubt mom shaming happens in the physical world. I know hugging doesn’t happen in the virtual world. A “thumbs up” to show your positive reaction in the physical world would be less than remarkable. And sharing a cup of tea, well, you won’t find that in the virtual world.

But what about our basic laws? You know, the laws that exist in the physical world to keep us safe, happy and healthy. Those apply in the virtual world right?

Think again.

The term “Sex Offender” is absolutely frightening for parents, and rightfully so. We do everything within our means to protect our children; from making them wear a bike helmet to teaching them about strangers. But are we really doing everything in our means to protect them?

Remember that photo of your child you posted last night? And the 25 photos you posted three days ago? (Yeah, I post a ton of photos, so I am currently preaching to myself.) If we aren’t careful, those photos can end up in the wrong hands. In fact, they can end up in the hands of a registered sex offender, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

On July 27th, 2006 the Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act was passed to protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime. This not only included the physical world, but it also included internet safety.

Hold up, something major happened this past week that goes against everything this act stands for.

North Carolina was fighting for a law to ban registered sex offenders from all forms of social media. If you think about it, this is the same idea as banning them from playgrounds and schools.

If a sex offender isn’t allowed in the places children frequent, then social media should be high on that list.

However, The Supreme Court shutdown the law, saying that this prevents offenders from exercising their First Amendment rights.

Parents of young children are snapping photos of their kids on the playground and uploading them to their social media accounts. Making it that much easier for a predator to lay eyes on their child.

Teenagers themselves are uploading photos, tagging friends and checking in at locations. Making it that much easier for a predator to lay eyes on them.

If you think about it, the virtual world has made it quite simple for sex offenders to get away with watching and even interacting with our children.

Ok, so here’s the deal. The Supreme Court doesn’t agree with banning sex offenders from social media, and whether you agree or not, does not matter. What matters is what has always mattered– parents keeping their children safe and acting as their ultimate protector.

The ball is in our court.

It is incredibly enjoyable to post a cute picture or video of your child, and I’m not saying to stop, but post with caution. Set your privacy settings to the highest level, screen the friends you accept and refrain from sharing your location. Even by doing this, you are still at risk. There is never 100% promise of safety when it comes to the internet.

We have seen stories about predators virtually stealing your child by using their photos and people being stalked and even followed due to over-posting. There was even the Facebook Live Video of a man murdering another person. I know I don’t want my children stumbling across that video.

Please, be careful out there. Social Media is as fun as it is dangerous. Use with caution. Sex offenders are legally out there, and maybe even reading this article.

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Jackie Boeheim

Jacqueline Leigh holds a BA in Journalism from Valdosta State University. She’s successfully published articles in multiple lifestyle magazines and online publications. She is passionate about entertaining both parents and children through her writing. Jacqueline's first picture book, Time For Bed With Ford And Red, is set to release in June 2017. She makes her home in North Carolina with her husband and two spirited children. You can follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/authorjacquelineleigh/?ref=bookmarks

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