Protecting Your Kids From Computer Creeps

A new survey shows while Florida parents realize the Internet can be a dangerous place for kids, many aren’t taking simple steps to help keep their children safe.

Among other findings, the Mason-Dixon poll found almost 60 percent of parents let their children use computers in remote areas of the house, away from adult supervision.

The potential problems can pop up much quicker than you may realize.

It took less than 10 minutes in a chat room for a law enforcement officer posing as a 13-year-old girl named Kelly to attract some potentially dangerous attention.

“He tells me that he likes my name. He thinks I am a young girl.”

Just a few sentences into the chat, someone who identified himself as a 35-year-old named Rob from New York was asking our 13-year-old what she looks like and sharing his own physical description.

Mike Phillips with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s computer crime center says even if this conversation hasn’t gotten sexual yet, it raises red flags when a 35-year-old man wants to talk to a pre-teen.

And sometimes the subtle ones are the biggest threats.

“The ones that really worry us are the ones that take awhile to build that relationship.”

A new survey of Florida parents finds many of us may be putting our children at risk without even realizing it. More than one out of three parents don’t monitor their kids’ chat room conversations, and half the parents who responded let their children use the internet when adults are not home.

In unveiling a new website, “SAFE STEPS,” state school boards chief Wayne Blanton acknowledged schools and parents have to catch up with the times.

“We have pushed very hard over the years to say, talk to your children about drugs, but we’ve got to start taking a new emphasis right now, we’ve got to start talking to our children about Internet, we’ve got to talk to them about the value of the Internet, but also the Internet can be a dangerous tool.”

Otherwise, what seems like a friendly conversation can quickly become a parent’s worst nightmare.

Here are a couple of safety tips for children’s Internet use:

- Never let your child give out identifying or personal information.

- Don’t post photos of your kids on public websites.

- Know that how you respond and talk to your child about internet safety could determine whether your child confides in you if something happens.

For more tips, log onto or go to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website, You can sign up for classes to get more cyber-savvy or to take an interactive quiz with your child to test their level of safety.