Ayotte, Comcast push PSAs to warn of cyber bullying

CONCORD – Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Comcast executives announced Monday a yearlong public service and education campaign to help parents and caregivers about the dangers the Internet poses to children.

“We used to think about protecting our kids on the playground,” Ayotte said at a news conference in her office. “Our job now is to protect kids in our own homes.”

Comcast will air $100,000 worth of free ads, three versions in which Ayotte stars and warns about “cyber bullying,” Net lingo used by children to keep parents ignorant about their activities and a warning to youths not to share personal information.

“Would you tell a stranger your name and where you live?” Ayotte asks in one commercial.

“In New Hampshire, we are working to keep you safe on the Internet.”

This new effort also includes making available a 20-minute tutorial on Internet safety for parents and children that Comcast has for viewing at any time on its On Demand service. All digital subscribers to Comcast have access to On Demand.

“Parents are very hungry for education on this topic,” Ayotte said.

Comcast Senior Vice President Steve Hackley said the three free commercials began airing in mid-December and will go beyond the $100,000 commitment.

“We view this as an ongoing relationship,” Hackley said. “This is not a flash in the pan.”Since becoming attorney general, Ayotte, of Nashua, has made cyber crime and Internet security one of her signature themes that would likely become a major asset should she one day seek higher office.

With Sen. Judd Gregg’s decision last week to accept nomination to be President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary, several GOP activists promote Ayotte as a potential candidate for Senate, governor or Congress in 2010.

Ayotte’s present term is up at the end of March, and in a few weeks, Gov. John Lynch could legally nominate her to a second, five-year term if that’s his desire.

Before the Legislature, Ayotte co-chaired a commission Lynch created that came up with a 2007 law that increases punishment for those who possess or sell child pornography or use the Internet to prey upon children.

Ayotte is preparing for a second edition of an Internet Safety Guide for parents and caregivers that her office has distributed more than 120,000 copies.

The growing ease with which children can post personal information on the Internet also becomes a tempting target for predators to exploit.

“You go online and post a picture on the Internet, that is forever,” Ayotte said. “You may post something that was funny when you were 14 or 15 years old but at 21 can be very damaging to you seeking that first job out of college.”

Those needing more information on the AG’s projects can find it at www. connectwithyourkids.org. Comcast offers to its customers free downloads of security software and teaching tools to anyone at www.comcast.com/security.