ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Jan DeFreitas is a mother of three young children growing up in world of digital media.
"We are the foreigners to this land and our children are the natives. But the irony is we have to make our children understand there are repercussions just like in the real world, there are repercussions of what you say and what you do on line or through texting," she said.
That reality struck home as DeFreitas was riveted by the Rachel Wade trial. The then 19-year-old was in the middle of a deadly love triangle trial.
Wade is spending the next 27 years in prison. It took just three hours for a jury to find her guilty of the fatal stabbing of her romantic rival, another teenager, Sarah Ludemann.
But, Wade and her attorney Jay Hebert, both blamed social media .
Both girls had engaged in a vicious Internet battle that exploded into reality on an April night in 2009. DeFreitas was touched by watching both set of parents.
At the end of the trial, Barry Wade, Rachel's father said, "What happened was a big mistake on her part. I know she never intended for this to happen."
The Ludemman's wanted Wade to go to prison for life.
Her mother Gay said after the verdict, "You have to remember Rachels's parents can see her, speak with her. We can't. We are going to see my daughter in the cemetery. That is where we are going to see our daughter."
"It is horrific," DeFreitas said. "It is a really scary thing to think that they felt they were not bound by the same rules that we are in person that we are in real life. "
Then, DeFreitas heard Wade's attorney was visiting area schools. St. Pete Christian, where her children attended, welcomed him in.
"What Jay is doing is amazing because he doesn't have to. This affected him so much that he is going out and trying to educate parents," Defrietas said.
Hebert handed out a pamphlet with valuable information, including text lingo. His message may have opened another door. DeFreitas and other parents contacted Tim Woda, an Internet specialist based in Washington D.C.
"Social media is a kind of like Pandora's box. You open it up and you never know what is going to happen," Woda said.
He also felt, in the Wade case, the Internet harassment may have spiraled out of control.
"In an ideal world, mom and dad would have been notified long before it got to that situation. They would have been notified that there child was having a confrontation type of relationship on line and mom and dad wold have been able to step in and potentially help the child navigate in a more constructive positive way," Woda said.
Woda has found a way to do that and he said it is working. His company 'Kidsafe' has gone beyond parental control software.
"Parental control software that has been around for years is really about controlling what the kids see and what they can do. So even if you are trying to protect them and control them at an individual piece of hardware like the family computer they can access anything that has two batteries or can plug into a wall so you can't control them."
He said he has pioneered a parental intelligence system. A system available to parents that sends them a message anytime there is a red flag.
"We translate all the message texts that is taking place in the digital world. All the messages that kids now send in their own text language. We look at all these message text electronically and anytime there are references to sex, drugs, violence, harassment or bullying. The software is proactive and notifies mom and dad when something is headed in the wrong direction so mom and dad can intervene," Woda said.
His mission is to protect children. Woda's own 14-year-old was a target.
"I started the company because of what happened to my son. A few years ago my son was on Facebook and accepted a friend request from a friend of a friend on line and it turns out that person was not an appropriate friend. It was a child predator."
The predator, Jonathan Dick is a former teacher and Lacrosse coach in Maryland. He is now behind bars.
Woda said, "After the dust settled I started asking myself a lot of hard questions. Like how in the world could this have happened to me? I am internet security specialist, I am an engaged parent and I have a good boy. So, I started realizing I as a parent, you know, I could have done a better job, if I had better tools."
And now he has created those tools. Tools that he offers to companies nationwide,
"I don't really care who gets the credit for helping parents with kids. People need tools so we chose that approach for that reason" he said.
Security companies in the Tampa Bay area now offer the technology that DeFreitas has taken advantage of. Thanks, in part, to a lesson from a lawyer and a horrible tragedy that helped DeFrietas take action ito protect her kids.
"It was so eye-opening listening to Jay. No matter how you are communicating, that is a person in the other end. I am really grateful that he came and educated us. I have Tim Woda's software and