Safer Internet Day: Spy software father warns parents

Teenage boy using the internet, SPL
Image caption The father said the best way to protect children online was to be "open and honest" with them

A father who spied on his teenage daughter and found she was having sex with a 38-year-old ice hockey coach has warned other parents to be vigilant.

The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, caught Nicholas Lovell making sexual advances to his 15-year-old daughter.

He discovered the abuse by installing spy software on her computer.

In 2008 Lovell, from Guildford, in Surrey, was jailed for four-and-a-half years, and has since been released.

The father said he installed the software on his 15-year-old daughter's computer after she started acting suspiciously.

Lovell met the teenager in Bracknell, Berkshire, in 2006 while coaching her in ice hockey, and started contacting her through email and MSN messenger.

She had told her parents she was staying with a friend while she was seeing Lovell in secret.

The parents discovered her subterfuge and alerted the police, who gave Lovell a police warning.

'Sneaky' kids

However, Lovell used various false names to maintain contact, hoping to evade detection.

The father said he continued to be suspicious.

With the consent of his ex-partner, he installed the spy software on his daughter's computer, and began monitoring her email and instant messenger conversations with Lovell.

"My wife was trying to keep an eye on her, but kids can be sneaky," he said.

By reading his daughter's emails and messages, he was able to build evidence against Lovell which led to him being jailed for four-and-a-half years in 2008 for five counts of sexual activity with a child.

Lovell was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely and was also disqualified from working with children.

It was later discovered he was introducing the girl at his place of work as his girlfriend and took her to hotels for sexual relations.

"She was being groomed," said the father.

Tuesday marks the 2012 Safer Internet Day, an annual event designed to encourage people to use internet technology, including mobile devices, more responsibly.

This year it coincides with the week-long BBC Share Take Care campaign, in partnership with the UK Safer Internet Centre, which is being featured across BBC television, radio and websites to raise awareness of issues surrounding safeguarding reputation online.

The government's online child protection watchdog CEOP urges parents to get involved with any activities their children take part in on the internet.

It advises people to consider using parental controls on all the internet-connecting devices that children have access to and to "set boundaries in the online world, just as you would in the real world".

'Freaked out'

The father said his daughter had been originally angered by his actions, but now was grateful he had intervened.

"For about a month she wouldn't talk to me, but then one day this guy turned up at the ice-rink and she freaked out and called me," he said.

His daughter is now at university and is in a relationship with a man of her own age.

The father said he had since installed the software on the computers of all his children - with their knowledge.

However, he said the best way to prevent children falling prey to internet predators was to be "open and honest" with them.

"Talk to them and listen to them," he said.

He also said he did not approve of children having computers in their bedrooms, and becoming members of social networking sites such as Facebook.

Facebook has age restrictions in place to prevent children joining before the age of 13.

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