Parents should take steps to ensure cyber safety for kids - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Parents should take steps to ensure cyber safety for kids

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MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - School administrators say parents need to play an active role when it comes to making sure kids are both acting appropriately online, and not putting themselves in danger.

Ashley Gasperson is the Digital Communications Coordinator for Horry County Schools. She says no matter how many steps the schools take to make sure kids are using the Internet safely, if students get home and there are no blocks or ways to prevent kids from looking up things they shouldn't, it's the parents.

She says if there are no blocks, nothing to monitor their online usage, kids could be tricked into talking with someone who might not be who they say they are.

Many parents don't realize kids aren't legally supposed to even sign up for sites like Facebook until they are 13. The only thing website's can do is ask for a birthday, and if your child puts in an earlier birth year they will be able to sign up.

Information about a free computer program called "Computer Cop" was released back in October. It gives parents the power to see anything and everything that their child is doing on the computer. Parents can look through it all: their child's images, documents, videos, Internet chats and emails.

When a parent pops in the Computer Cop CD, it instantly scans for all things that could potentially be dangerous. It checks for certain content - anything on hate activity, weapons, drugs, sex, violence and gambling. It even looks through any files that have been deleted. If something is found, the parent will be the first to know. Computer Cop will send an immediate alert through email or even a text message that's sent straight to a cell phone.

The disc is free for parents to pick up at all libraries in Horry and Georgetown counties. Once it is picked up, it is theirs to keep.

Knowing what your kids are up to online is important for them to stay safe in the present, but can also help them in the future.

"What students don't remember is that once you do something digitally it's there forever. It's always somewhere," Gasperson says. "It is on a server sitting somewhere and you never when it is going to come back. Especially when you're preparing for the years that you're going to go to college and if you're applying for scholarships and your digital footprint is extremely important."

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