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Op-ed: Protect your kids from Internet predators

BY QUEENS DISTRICT ATTORNEY RICHARD A. BROWN 

Internet child luring is every parent’s worst nightmare and is the reason that we repeatedly urge parents to communicate with their children about their use of the Internet and to monitor their children’s Internet activities.

There are sexual predators lurking online who are just waiting to take advantage of a child’s innocence and trusting nature. These predators troll Internet chat rooms pretending to offer friendship, sympathy and love to victims who are too young to understand that they are actually being lured into sexual abuse.

My office’s Computer Crimes Unit has teamed with the NYPD to catch these criminals in the act, prosecute them and get them off the Internet. But Internet safety must begin at home. Parental vigilance plays a crucial role in protecting children from cyber criminals.

Here are some tips to keep your children safe online:
• Talk to your child about the dangers of being victimized online and why his or her online activities cannot be kept private from you;
• Keep the computer in the living room or family room rather than in the child’s bedroom;
• If your Internet service provider has parental controls available, use them and/or use parental control software;
• Even if you use parental controls, you should also personally monitor your child’s Internet usage by randomly checking website logs, chat room logs, emails, etc.; and
• Inquire about the use of controls on computers at school, the local library, friends’ homes and anywhere else your child can get on the Internet without your direct supervision.

In bygone days, parents told their children never to take candy from a stranger. Nowadays, that “candy” is in cyberspace and cyberspace can literally be in your child’s back pocket as more than ever the Internet is being accessed by portable devices such as cellphones and tablets.

If you suspect Internet child luring, don’t hesitate to call the Queens district attorney’s office at 718-286-6000 or e-mail Contact QDA@queensda.org for assistance. My office is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and is staffed with experts in online investigations.

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