Why monitoring software to keep child predators away could backfire
They’re everywhere — hiding, lurking in the shadows of cyber space.
We hear time and time again how online predators pose an increasing threat to our children, but many parents don’t seem to have any idea how to protect them, and most admit they don’t even know what their kids are doing on their computers and smart phones.
According to New Jersey State Police Lut. John Pizzuro, the commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, there is monitoring software that can be installed on phones and computers — but the first step for parents should be to try and build a level of trust with their kids in order to protect them.
“We’ve found that people that communicate with their children more frequently are more likely to head anything off because they have an open dialog,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean parents should always blindly trust their kids, and believe everything they’re saying.
If you walk into a room and automatically they minimize the screen, they shut the phone off, they start acting differently, those are key concepts you need to hone in on that hey, maybe something’s up,” he said.
Pizzuro added especially when it comes to younger children, “you don’t want to leave them in a room where they’re able to close the bedroom door and they’re able to go online without anyone around.”
He suggested having ‘family time,’ where everyone is in the same room reading or going online, would be a smart way to do things.
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The lieutenant said monitoring software can backfire.
“We found that the more times you put monitoring software, you’re opening up a distrust between that and the family, and you’re now creating a more divisive atmosphere," he said. "However there are some apps where the app tells the individual, let’s say the child, that this is inappropriate contact, we’re sending a report to your parent.”
The bottom line, Pizzuro said, is “monitoring software is best when your child knows about it, because it helps them as far as being honest with it.”
He noted many adults are not computer-savvy, and they claim they don’t understand it or like computers — but in today’s world, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.
“The reality is, it’s not that difficult to understand, it just takes a little time to do that,” he said.
Where to start
Pizzuro suggested parents can go to netsmartz.org, run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"They have different programs in there and they have different resources from parents, so the idea is you can find out how a lot of this stuff works.”
Or just try a simple search.
They need to be on top of the technology and know the technology, because obviously the kids are smarter than the parents.
“You can Google what Snapchat is, what the issues are, so it just takes a little time and a little research to just get a little bit of understanding,” he said.
He stressed if a child is being groomed by a predator, “they’re going to start acting differently. They’re going to be a little bit more isolated, parents must understand that .”
State Police detective Paul Sciortino, a member of the Digital Technology Investigations Unit, agrees that in order to stop predators, parents must get involved.
“They need to be on top of what their kids are doing. They need to be on top of the technology and know the technology, because obviously the kids are smarter than the parents," he said.
He added if parents don’t get educated and involved “there’s a good chance kids online can be exploited or cyber bullied. They can get themselves in trouble. They can get us knocking on their door 6 o’clock in the morning doing a search warrant.”
Tomorrow we look at laws in New Jersey that officials are working to change, because they may actually encourage cyber predators.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.