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SAN DIEGO -
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis Tuesday urged parents to pick up free "Computer Cop" software aimed at protecting children from online predators and bullying.
The software, paid for with assets taken from drug dealers, enables parents to scan photos, videos, emails and chat messages for inappropriate content.
According to the District Attorney's Office, one in seven young people online are solicited for sexual purposes or approached, and 34 percent had unwanted exposure to sexual material.
"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," Dumanis said. "We all know there are some dangerous off-ramps on the information superhighway that can lead to very dark places. Every day children are contacted by predators through the Internet. This software lets parents see what their kids are up to online and head off dangerous situations before they occur."
The 60 cases -- with the youngest victim being five years old -- is more than double the number of cases from the year before.
The software enables computers to be searched for content, "cookies," text logs with keywords of a sexual nature, drug slang, gang names and terms, weapons, and violent or threatening words.
For example, if "rendezvous" is a keyword, the program captures keystrokes and will send parents an email alert to the keyword as well as show the entire message.
The District Attorney's Office is making available up to 5,000 copies of the software available. Copies can be picked up at the District Attorney's office on the 13th floor of the Hall of Justice downtown, or at any of the District Attorney's three regional offices.
"This is just one tool that parents can use to monitor their child's Internet use," Dumanis said. "I urge parents to talk with their kids about their safety online. And if you're a kid, tell your parents if something
strange or upsetting happens to you online."
"I think it's fair to say that no parent should feel that they're safe," said Dumanis.
"There's a digital divide between the parents and the kids and we're hoping that this can bridge that digital divide," said Deputy District Attorney Marisa Di Tillio.
Teacher Michelle Uruchurtu, who has spoken to her daughter about Internet safety, said she has seen parents who are reluctant to acknowledge the danger.
"You know, it goes back to 'Well, my kid would never do that,' but you never know," said Uruchurtu.
Uruchurtu told 10News she would consider using Computer Cop.
"I'd rather be overprotective than have my child's face on a missing poster," she said.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an estimated 14 percent of young people have received sexual solicitations online, yet less than five percent of parents think their child is at risk.
"I can only come back with your child's safety is much more important and in today's world you need to look at this," said San Diego Police Department Sgt. Chuck Arnold, who is part of the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.