ARCHDALE, N.C. — Like most young people growing up in the 21st century, 11-year-old Jake Turner loves to play video games and spend time on the computer.
“It’s hard to get a screen away from them, especially these days,” said step-mom Mitzie Turner. She and her husband try to monitor their children’s screen time, but it’s tough.
“Our kids are raised on computers. Screens are all around them and they know how to get around,” Turner said. “They can get to it with a click of a button.”
A couple of weeks ago, Turner learned that the hard way when she caught Jake and one of his friends on a website called Omegle.com. She saw a red flag right away.
“The first thing I saw when I walked in and saw Jacob on this website was ‘Talk to Strangers,’ and I immediately knew it was not something he should be on,” Turner said.
Turner said she and her husband immediately took the computer away and launched their own investigation into the website. The two learned the website allows users to video chat or text with strangers. Turner said although the website says on the homepage that users have to be at least 13 to visit the monitored section and 18 to visit the unmonitored section, there’s no one monitoring that.
“A window popped up saying it’s unmonitored and you will most likely experience sexual behavior. Click OK if you’re over 18. And that was it. I clicked OK. And it was one man after the other exposing himself to the camera.”
Although Capt. Michael Kirk with the High Point Police Department had never heard of this particular website, he said it’s a perfect example of why parents need to be vigilant and set up parental controls on computers.
“If you have your filters set up properly for language and content, quite often, these websites should flag themselves,” Capt. Kirk said.
He demonstrated how easy it is to set up parental controls on a desktop and stressed that while setting up parental controls is an important step, it shouldn’t be the only step.
“Parents have got to be involved. You can’t step back and just assume it’s going to be OK,” he said. “Look over their shoulders, have filters on their phone. And ask who they’re talking to.”
Lane Foushee, of Thomasville Affordable Computers, said there are free programs that parents can install on computers to serve as another layer of protection. Foushee recommends Avast Anti-Virus software, which is free to download.
Foushee said parents can also purchase parental control software to double-up on the settings already found on computers. Finally, he suggests securing the wireless router by following the instructions that come in the manual.