Why Monitoring Software Is Not Always Enough

When police officer John Karraker's 13-year-old daughter went online, he thought she was doing her homework and chatting with friends. When he came home to find a phone message from an adult man who was far too old for her, she denied knowing him.

Even though John checked the family computer with the monitoring software he had installed on it, he didn't find anything. Like many children and teens, she had become adept at hiding her electronic footprints. He later found out that his daughter had deleted her chat logs and website history when he questioned her about the call.

Although the parents had talked with their daughter about online safety when they initially installed the computer, they now realized that their warnings had fallen on deaf ears — and that their child was lying to them to protect a man she had met online, who was really a sexual predator.

The man called back, and talked to the girl's mother, whom he initially mistook for the 13-year-old girl. She peppered him with questions and he hung up. Finally, their daughter admitted that she had chatted online with him for an extended period of time and given their family's home phone number to him.

"The experience my daughter had fortunately did not have a tragic outcome, but I have to admit that it was more by luck than by parental intervention," said Karraker in testimony to the U.S. Congress subcommittee dealing with online safety for children in 2002. He urges parents and guardians to educate themselves and their children about online safety.

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