The Internet provides an endless collection of information from all over the world, right at your fingertips. Children learn how to use computers at an early age and use the Internet to do homework, to play games, and to chat with friends and family members. Just as you would teach your children safety rules in the real world, it is important to teach your children the safety rules of the online world.The Attorney General is proud to partner with NetSmartz Workshop to bring you the latest online safety resources. NetSmartz is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) that provides free, age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer online. The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement. With resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates.As a parent or guardian, you should stay well-informed about current issues to understand what your children are experiencing online. Learn how to use the technologies they're using--social media sites and apps, webcams, and cell phones. Here are some tip sheets from NetSmartz to help you get started:
Find more tips at www.NetSmartz.org. If you have specific questions about Internet safety, computers, or the Web online world, such as “What is Kik Messenger?” or “What is Snapchat?”, click here to search for answers: www.netsmartz411.org.
Founded in 1984, NCMEC's mission is to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. www.ncmec.org
The CyberTipline is a reporting mechanism for cases of child sexual exploitation, online enticement, molestation, sex tourism, prostitution of minors, and unsolicited obscene material sent to a child. Reports may be made at www.cybertipline.com or by calling 1-800-843-5678.
Maryland has received over 2 billion dollars since Big Tobacco settled the State's lawsuit in 1998, and will continue to receive big settlement payments as long as cigarettes are sold. The settlement raised the price of cigarettes and required the companies that still sell them to stop marketing to children. As a result, cartoon characters like "Joe Camel" are forever banned, billboards promoting cigarettes no longer line our roadways, and Big Tobacco can no longer offer free or reduced-price cigarette promotions to condemn the next generation to disease and early death.
The results have been startling. In 1997, the last year before the settlement, 28% of American high-school students smoked. By 2013, only 9.3% did. In Maryland, the numbers were a little less impressive, as 11.9 % of Maryland high-schools reported smoking. In 2015, Maryland teens bought or smoked 7.5 million packs of cigarettes, and approximately 3,500 kids under the age of 18 became new smokers. Clearly, more work remains to be done.
The Office of the Attorney General is committed to lowering Maryland's youth smoking rate even further. Its Tobacco Enforcement Unit maintains a staff of attorneys that enforces the 1998 settlement to make sure the cigarette companies never return to their old ways of marketing their addictive and deadly products to our children. OAG attorneys in other State departments work to enforce the State's ban on retail tobacco sales to minors. The Office also supports legislation that would make Maryland join the growing number of cities and states that have raised the legal smoking age to 21.
Unfortunately, e-cigarette use has increased dramatically in recent years, especially among teenagers. Recent studies have demonstrated that young people who try e-cigarettes are much more likely to smoke cigarettes within a year of their first use. Here are some answers to questions about e-cigarettes:
E-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, convert liquid nicotine into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. E-cigarettes contain a battery-operated heating element that vaporizes a solution typically comprised of nicotine, flavorings, and accelerants like propylene glycol and glycerin. Cigarette companies like Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds sell e-cigarettes in pre-packaged devices that resemble traditional cigarettes, but they are also available in refillable "tank" systems sold by "vape" shops.
No. Although some e-cigarettes advocates claim that they produce only nicotine and water vapors, studies show that e-cigarette vapor contains toxic chemicals that can include arsenic, lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium, and formaldehyde. There is no safe level of exposure to these chemicals. Nicotine is poisonous. The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes is highly toxic to human beings and can poison adults merely by accidental contact with their skin. In 2014, a 1 year-old child died after ingesting liquid nicotine in his home.The batteries in e-cigarettes have been known to explode. Many serious burn injuries have occurred as a result of e-cigarettes blowing up in their users' faces.Claims that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes are misleading because almost nothing is more dangerous than traditional cigarettes. An increasingly robust body of scientific literature shows that e-cigarettes pose serious health risks to users. Because e-cigarettes are a new product, the full extent of those risks to long-term users will not be fully understood for years to come.
Anecdotal claims that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking are not supported by recent studies in the United States. To the contrary, most e-cigarette users smoke cigarettes too, and studies have shown that using an e-cigarette may make it even harder to quit smoking altogether.
The Attorney General has focused for many years on juvenile crime, looking at its root causes and what more could be done to give at-risk kids a fighting chance. The research is clear on the factors placing children at risk, e.g., poverty, poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, family violence, substance abuse, truancy, and teen pregnancy. The best hope for saving these children is to address the problems in their lives as early as possible.
Dedicated, caring people all over Maryland work against tremendous odds to help at-risk children avoid delinquency and experience success. Some programs keep kids in school and help them overcome academic obstacles. Others focus on keeping kids off drugs and persuading them not to have babies while they are still children themselves. Many give teens something fun or enriching to do after school to help them stay out of trouble. Still others address the violence some children experience in their own homes.
The programs vary in focus and approach, but many of the most effective have a mentoring component. This is no accident. The research is compelling - mentoring really helps. Providing children who desperately need it with a caring, stable adult in their lives can produce astounding results. For example, studies show the support and guidance of a mentor can reduce truancy by 50%. Such support and guidance increase graduation and college enrollment rates and decrease the likelihood of substance abuse and violent behavior. For kids already in trouble, they reduce recidivism by an astonishing 80%.
The Attorney General is working with the Casey Foundation, the Judiciary and the Department of Juvenile Services to encourage evidence based best practices such as limiting juvenile detention and encouraging close to home, therapeutic interventions for kids.
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