Virginia Becomes First State to Mandate Internet Safety Lessons

Virginia is the first state to mandate that public schools offer Internet safety classes for all grade levels — and it’s one of many measures being taken nationally to protect young Web users.

Virginia’s requirement initially stemmed from concerns about sex offenders preying on children online and a general increase in Internet-based crime. It took effect this school year.

In a recent presentation at a suburban Richmond high school, Virginia assistant attorney general Gene Fishel flashed an online social-networking profile a 15-year-old who says she enjoys being around boys and wants to meet new people. The real profile user turned out to be a 31-year-old man convicted of sexually abusing 11 children he met online and sentenced to a 45-year prison term.

A 2006 study by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children showed that about 13 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 received unwanted sexual solicitations.