If elected attorney general, Democrat Pam Bucy said Monday she will build on an existing effort to teach online safety to middle-school students so they can avoid the future risk of exploitation, harassment, identity theft or worse.

In a press conference in front of the Lewis & Clark County Courthouse, Bucy said she would implement what she calls eSm@rt Kids if she wins the post next year.

Her plan would greatly expand the number of presentations now being made to a limited number of groups by the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. While this task force already has made informative presentations to some schools and law-enforcement, treatment and parent organizations, it lacks the staff to take them to every Montana middle school as Bucy wants.

“Their presentations include information like, what exactly is the Internet, how do you access it and informs parents that you can access it via your kids’ cellphone, through a video game console,” she said.

Only three law-enforcement officers are now available to make these presentations, Bucy said.

She said her plan would “train the trainers” to increase their numbers and team up with the Office of Public Instruction and parent groups to offer presentations to middle-school students across the state. Bucy suggested adding this program to the curriculum at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, which trains police officers.

Some law enforcement officials, standing behind Bucy at a press conference, applauded her effort.

Lewis & Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher said there needs to be ways to inform kids about the future consequences of mistakes they can make online, so they “know what they can do today can harm them today and it can harm them forever.” 

In response, Bucy’s Democratic opponent, Jesse Laslovich, a Helena lawyer, said, “Anytime we can educate consumers, whether they be adults or children, that’s a good thing. That’s what I’ve been talking about the last few months with an embezzlement registry and I will continue to advocate for it.”

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