SAN DIEGO — In light of prosecuting a rising number of cases involving online victimization of children, the San Diego District Attorney’s office is offering free Internet monitoring software throughout the county to help adults protect children from online predators.
“Over the past year, our office has filed 60 cases that involve the use of the Internet to victimize children. That’s roughly double the number of cases from the year before,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in a press release.
Recently in the county, there has been an increase in people recruiting girls online for prostitution and predators trying, via the Internet, to lure children to meet them in person, said deputy district attorney Marissa Detillio.
She said the increase is partly because children are getting online at a younger age and the Internet is becoming increasingly accessible on many different types of devices and at many public places.
The district attorney’s office is providing 5,000 free copies of “Computer Cop,” software that allows adults to scan children’s computers for inappropriate content by searching for key words. The software can search through documents, media and Internet histories.
The software was paid for using asset forfeiture funding, which is money taken from drug dealers and other criminals.
The software has been used with notable success in other jurisdictions, according to Detillio.
“Parents need to recognize that their children are incredibly vulnerable online,” said Detillio, who has been working with victimized children for seven years and with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force for the past two.
She said that the software is intended to be used as a tool for parents to monitor their children’s online activity and to launch a dialogue about safe Internet use among families.
She said that for the most part, parents are not on the Internet as much as their children, and as a result are not aware of everything that children are doing online.
“We have to give our kids the tools and the mechanisms to keep themselves safe because you’re not going to be with them the whole time they are online,” she said.
Copies are available to any county resident and are located at any district attorney location throughout the county.
Detillio recommended that if an adult suspects that a child is being victimized online they should use the resources available at the ICAC website at sdicac.org and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website at us.missingkids.com.