APD: Internet poses imminent dangers

ALBANY -- Sexual predators lurk in computer chat rooms, Internet forums and social networking sites to lure children, said Detective Tywon Heath, of the Albany Police Department's family protection unit.

"Even Wii and other electronic game consoles can be computer accessible to the Internet," Heath said. "It is important that your child realizes the seriousness (of the threat from sexual predators) and does not become a willing active participant.

"The most common way sexual predators contact children over the Internet is through chat rooms, instant messages and e-mail," Heath told about 60 members of the Rotary Club of Dougherty County last week. "About 89 percent of sexual solicitations were made either in chat rooms or instant messages and one in four girls met strangers online and one in seven boys met strangers on the internet."

Sexual predators masquerade as children and teenagers online to gather information and entice their victims, Heath said.

As part of the police training in computer predator techniques, a technician posed as a young girl online, Heath said. A predator sent sexual messages to the technician.

"It took three minutes for nude pictures to show up," Heath said.

Other ways the family protection unit becomes involved in computer crime is through identity theft and frauds.

Adults should also be wary about giving information on the Internet, Heath said. Not all violence is physical.

Having Heath speak to the club was Joe Dan Banker's idea. He acts as the club's agent in finding speakers for its luncheons.

"I thought that after Christmas, everybody may have gotten their children computers," Banker said. "It would be good to make us aware of what goes on."

The talk went over well with the Rotarians.

"It was excellent. We have to keep on top of things," said Deidra Langstaff. "We have to protect our children."


To help children protect themselves, Heath suggested parents post the "Tips for Kids" he provided next to computers.

Never give out personal information (name, age, address, phone number, school, town, password, schedule, or a picture) or fill out questionnaires online.

Never meet in person with anyone you met online without a parent.

Do not enter a chat room without a parent's presence or supervision. Some kids in chat rooms are not really kids. They could be adults with bad intentions. Remember, people may not be who they say they are.

Be suspicious of anyone who tries to turn you against your parents, teachers or friends.

Never respond to or send e-mail or instant messages to new people you meet online. Talk to your parents first so they can check it out.

Do not engage in any online conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Log off and tell your parents. Do not respond to that uncomfortable message. Show it to your parents.