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Make sure your child is protected in cyberspace

The welfare of our children and youth is one of my top priorities as sheriff. As parents, we may use extreme measures to protect our homes from intruders. Some may use heavy duty locks and deadbolts on doors to keep their families safe. Some may go so far as installing bars or other security devices on their windows to keep unwanted people out of their homes. I want to be the first to commend those efforts, but I also want to share my concerns in regards to the sometimes lackluster efforts in keeping our children safe from Internet predators.

I have spent over half of my 28-year career in law enforcement encouraging kids to stay away from gangs, stay off drugs and to make good decisions that will benefit their futures. I am also deeply concerned about our children's vulnerability while online. During my first year in office, the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office made several arrests of would-be predators that traveled to Dougherty County in an effort to have a sexual encounter with an underage victim. This is a real problem and a difficult issue to address. I am asking you to partner with me to ensure that our children are protected from Internet predators.

First and foremost, make sure the computer that your child uses for Internet purposes is located in a public area of the house such as a living room or family room. Never place the computer in your child's bedroom or allow your child to have total privacy behind closed doors while online. Second, make sure to use the appropriate settings on your firewall that will provide the best security to serve your needs. You should also use anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and to make sure to keep the software updated on a regular basis. I also recommend installing software that enables you to check up behind your child and view all of their online activities.

Make sure you have rules and guidelines for your child to follow while online or surfing the Web. Instruct your child to never give out personal information such as telephone number, address, hometown, where he/she attends school, birthday, first and last name or Social Security number. Stress to your child the importance of not giving out this information because there are predators on the Internet that will try to find them and harm them if given the opportunity. Tell your child to never try to meet with someone he/she has met online without your approval. Make sure your child never responds to rude or offensive e-mails, messages, postings, harassment or bullying.

Protecting our kids is an effort that involves all of us. Our children deserve the very best from us, and we must do our best to keep them safe. Please continue to help me in this endeavor and thank you for your continued trust and support. God Bless.

Sheriff Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sheriff Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office for 27 years and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.