The Internet is a wonderful tool, but you have to use it wisely, said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood when addressing an audience of more than 380 Boys State delegates at Mississippi State University on Wednesday [May 28].
"What we're seeing is a vast expansion of crime on the Internet--everything from cyberbullying to intellectual property to hacking," said Hood, a Chickasaw County native who is now in his second term in office and is Mississippi's only Democratic statewide elected official.
"Statistics show that 97 to 99 percent of people will be bullied on the Internet at some point, especially on social networking sites," he added.
Hood previously served as a clerk with the Mississippi Supreme Court, as an assistant attorney general, and as district attorney for the Third Judicial District in North Mississippi.
The chief civil and criminal legal officer and advisor in Mississippi told Boys State participants that while parents and teachers play an important role in advising on Internet-related issues and dangers, young people need to start relying on each other to help prevent crime.
"You are going to be the ones to decide what the public discourse will be and how you will treat one another on the Internet. You'll set those morals and standards," Hood said.
"We have found that young people communicating with other young people is the best way to get the message out there and to get young people to change their perspectives," he said. "We hope that as leaders in your schools, you will engage and listen to your colleagues."
Protecting technology and intellectual property is another major issue that will be of great importance to future generations.
Hood also reminded delegates to be especially wary when downloading music over the Internet.
"Mississippi has an inordinate amount of some of the world's best writers, actors and musicians, but the people who sing that music (or relay that content) aren't necessarily the ones who wrote it. The writers don't get paid unless our copyright laws are followed," he said.
"Even if you're just sharing and not selling it for profit, the music is still protected. If you're downloading music, I encourage you to go to iTunes or another system to pay for that music and contribute to those artists. That's important to our economy."
Hacking and 3D printing will change the way the United States operates, Hood said.
"Perhaps 3D printing will be as effective in making change in our country as the Internet itself has made in just your lifetime," he told the delegates.
Hood commended the Boys State program for its role in educating young people on how government works, developing leadership skills and nurturing an appreciation for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
In encouraging Boys State participants to consider working in public office, Hood emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind while talking about his personal history.
"My dad was a county prosecutor when I was young, so it's in my blood, but I never really intended to get into prosecution. I thought I was going to be an oil and gas lawyer, but the good Lord didn't have that in his plans for me.
"Don't just think right now that you know what you're going to do in life," Hood said. "Many of you are probably thinking more about making a lot of money, but it's not all about making money. You will be able to protect and help people on a broader basis. We need people who want to help others."
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