Photo: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today encouraged parents to utilize tools that can help protect young mobile telephone users from harmful content and child predators. Citing a recent increase in young cell phone users--and increasingly versatile wireless devices' potential for exploitation by sexual predators--the Attorney General urged parents to protect their children in the wireless world.

"With so many young Texans using mobile telephones, it is critically important for parents to protect their children from technology-savvy sexual predators," Abbott said. "By implementing parental controls and learning more about the potential dangers facing young cell phone users, well-informed parents can help keep their children safe. As increasingly sophisticated criminals use new technology to communicate with potential victims, parents and law enforcement must harness all available resources to ensure children are protected."

According to a September 2008 study by Harris Interactive, an international research firm, approximately 79 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 19 have mobile devices. As a result, a steadily increasing percentage of children are using cell phones to communicate and access the Internet. By implementing parental controls on their child's wireless communications device, parents can block young users' access to potentially dangerous Web sites, such as chat rooms.

The attorney general's Cyber Crimes Unit routinely conducts sting operations in chat rooms, where highly-specialized investigators create online profiles falsely indicating that they are children. Frequently, sexual predators communicate with the undercover officers and ultimately attempt to establish a time and place where the predator intends to meet and sexually assault the "child." Since Abbott established the Cyber Crimes Unit in 2003, more than 100 online predators have been arrested for soliciting or attempting to sexually assault children.

Because of the dangers posed by online predators, the attorney general recently urged the Legislature to update Texas' sex offender registration laws. If enacted, Abbott's proposal would require that sex offenders register their e-mail addresses, mobile telephone numbers, social networking aliases and other electronic identification information.

For tips parents can use to keep their children safe in a wireless environment, visit The Wireless Foundation's Web site.