Protecting Your Children Online

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Every time your child logs onto the Internet, and into chat rooms or on-line social networks, they could be putting themselves at risk. Every year, thousands of children are contacted by sexual predators online.

But there are some things you can do to protect your children when they're "surfing the web."

"The thing is, we never know who we're talking to when we're on these websites," explained Officer Barry Pruitt, with the Bowling Green Police Dept.

So when children are chatting with strangers online, it can become dangerous.

"User identities can be completely anonymous. So you can list a name and where you're from and your age. None of that necessarily is the true information of the person sitting on the other side of the web," assured Brandon Vincent, a Western Kentucky University network security specialist,

Chat rooms and social networking sites allow these cyber-meetings to take place.

But there are ways to protect your children.

"The best way is for parents to communicate with their children and understand what they're involved in and what sites they visit," Vincent said.

Vincent also added that by keeping the computer in a neutral place, it's easier to keep an eye on who your kids are talking to.

"Really it should be placed in a family room where there's nothing hidden that's going on on that computer--it's taking place publicly, in front of the parents and other members," Vincent noted.

Officer Pruitt suggests asking your kids for passwords to websites they frequently visit.

There are also ways you can use the computer to your advantage.

"There's all kinds of monitoring software out there for parents that will allow you to keep up with who your children are talking to. What websites they're going to and what people are saying to them," Pruitt said.

This type of software can also block websites that you don't want your children getting on.

We spoke with Warren County Public Schools and the Bowling Green-Warren County Public Library.

Both say they use web-filtering and blocking devices for their computer labs to prevent sexually explicit actions online.

To read information about NetSmartz411, an online service provided to answer questions about Internet safety, click here.

Get connected to the Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry and Sex Offender Alert Line, here.

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