- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) - The Republican candidate for attorney general said Wednesday she would use the office to keep children safe online, telling voters that smartphones in the hands of young people “are the devil.”

When asked during the debate at the Arkansas Educational Television Network what her priorities would be on Day One, GOP candidate Leslie Rutledge said she would fight crimes in cyberspace - particularly those aimed at children - by helping family members who care for the young.

“I believe that these smartphones that children have these days are the devil, as far as I’m concerned,” Rutledge said. “I have a 13-year-old niece, and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles must be educated to know how to protect their children.”

Democratic candidate Nate Steel said he understood Rutledge’s concerns, citing a study that addressed online predators using social media to reach youth.

“My opponent and I probably agree on this - the attorney general’s office should be doing all it can to make sure children are safe from online predators,” Steel told reporters after the debate. “The idea is not to target the youths but target online predators that use online technology in illegal ways.”

Libertarian Aaron Cash said parents have a key role in deciding how children use technology.

“If your parents want to restrict you, they should have the power to do that,” Cash said, later adding that Rutledge’s mention of the devil is her “trying to drum up fear for votes.”

Each of the candidates spoke of working to keep criminals behind bars.

“The fact that we’re paroling out sex offenders and violent criminals because of our prison overcrowding problem is unacceptable to me,” Steel said.

But Cash said non-violent drug offenders shouldn’t be in prison and said police were forcing people into jail improperly.

“The government has no right to come into your home and tell you what you can or cannot do if you’re not hurting anyone else,” he said.

Rutledge suggested more courts designated for drug offenses and the use of “faith-based” programs intended to steer people away from crime.

“Make certain that people in the system have an opportunity to change and save their lives and get to them early on so that way they don’t turn into violent criminals,” she said.

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