Opp parents learn dangers of teen Internet usage

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Opp parents found out Wednesday night they don’t know nearly as much about the dangers of Internet usage as they should.

Greg Price, chief technology officer at Troy University and part of the Alabama Computer Forensics Institute, presented a program at Opp High School on how to protect children in cyberspace, and how cyberbullying makes its way into the school system.


Price told parents gathered that 80 percent of computers are infected with viruses.

“People don’t always understand what they are dealing with,” he said. “It’s important to read antivirus software instruction manuals. Some 3,000 new viruses are created each day. You can’t assume that just because you have antivirus software, you are protected.”

Some of those viruses that attach to computers are a pedophile’s way of covering his or her tracks, Price said.

“Child porn folks put viruses on others’ computer, which distribute pieces of their collections to others computers,” Price said. “There have been times when we know that a person has child porn, but when we search their computers we find nothing, but it’s because they have put it out on others’ computers.”

Price said statistics show that in an auditorium full of parents that six computer have remnants of child porn from such viruses.

Price shared a story of a bank that was housing child porn, but was actually a victim of one of those viruses.

“Someone brought in a USB drive, and within three days the bank was housing porn,” he said.

Price cautioned parents who think that Covington County is isolated from child porn.

“It happens,” he said. “Last year, the child porn industry garnered $20 billion. There are 2 billion people using the Internet and 2 billion folks who could be in your house.”

Alabama has some of the most stringent laws in the U.S. when it comes to child porn, he said.

“But remember, child porn isn’t illegal everywhere,” he said. “Some places turn and ignore it, and in others it is legal and part of their economy.”

One in five children are sexually solicited online.

Price said through CFI, he’s dealt with numerous child molesters, and has many stories.

He told of a man who used the Internet to locate his next victims.

“He called it ‘harvesting,’” Price said. “He would pretend to be an underage kid and have a lengthy discussion with the girl and convince her to meet him or locate them, and abduct them.”

Price said early in the man’s crimes, he would release the girls, but then he began murdering them.

“He was caught and has now been executed,” Price said. “When I interviewed him, I always used a fake name for my family’s protection, and he told me what he did was too easy.”

Price said he received a letter from the correction facility that contained an invitation to watch the guy’s execution, and upon further inspection the letter wasn’t addressed to him, but his son, who was near the age of the victims.

“It was his last effort to show that even from prison he could use technology to find who he was looking for,” he said.


Price, who serves on the Pike County Board of Education, said he is familiar with how cyberbullying poses issues within school systems.

“I’m here to clear up misunderstandings,” he said. “Many people think they can hide the computer and Internet and not have to deal with the repercussions of what they say.”

What is cyberbullying? It’s simple. It’s taking the notion of being a bully and applying technology to it.

“It’s a rampant problem in schools,” Price said. “Children think no one will catch them.”

It’s not a crime in Alabama, and each school board had to amend its policies to reflect what they would do in the situation, Price said.

“Our juvenile detention facilities are overflowing with cyberbullies,” he said.

Price said it’s important for children to remember “if you wouldn’t say it in front of someone, don’t think by texting or Facebooking it is OK. You can be caught.”

Price said smart phone apps such as the “Ugly Meter,” which allows for the phone to take a photo of anyone and then scans it to see if someone is pretty or ugly, make cyberbullying easier.

The app costs 99 cents and uses facial recognition software that measures symmetry and other features.

Designed for users ages 9 and above, the app scans a snapshot and then submits a score of 1 to 10, with 1 being pretty and 10 being ugly.

Price said that sadly less than 3 percent are pretty, according to the app.

Girls are far worse than boys when it comes to cyberbullying, Price said.

“It’s called mean girls syndrome,” he said. “It happens very frequently.”

What to do if your child is a victim of cyberbullying?

“If you can print it out, do so,” he said. “If it’s a text message, don’t delete it. It is considered harassment.”

Price encouraged parents to check their children’s cell phones, Internet usage and social networking accounts.

“Some parents see it as an invasion of privacy,” he said. “I don’t. Children who don’t understand technology can create issues and threats for parents and themselves.

“The more engaged adults are, the more likely you are to prevent things from happening,” he said.

In the Opp school system, students are encouraged to report all instances of bullying to a teacher or administrator.

The adminstrator, in turn, logs the complaint, and takes appropriate action.