• 72°

Dangerous playground

Local attorney on a mission to educate, inform parents about the dangers of social media

Snapchat, TikTok, Yolo, Monkey, Twitch. These and many other social media apps are at the fingertips of any child with a smartphone or tablet. Local attorney Patrick Caver is on a mission to educate parents about the dangers lurking behind seemingly innocent apps.

Caver has practiced law in Morgan County for nearly 20 years and is in his third year of teaching classes to the public on social media and how predators use technology to find their victims.

He will teach a class tonight at 6 p.m. at the Sparkman Civic Center that is free to attend and open to the public. Caver said informing and educating parents is the only way to get ahead of what he calls an epidemic.

“I think parents just don’t know … and it’s not because they don’t try to stay informed,” Caver said. “Technology came on so fast – it went from no way to send photos to being able to send a 6-second video and now being able to record your entire life and make it public.”

“There are dangerous people on these apps. Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, you can make a profile reflect anything you want to,” he said. “A profile could say “12-year-old male from Hartselle and it could be a 45-year-old man.”

“When my kids were growing up and I put my child in bed at night, I knew my child was safe. No one was going to talk to my child without first going through me,” Caver said. “That’s no longer the case. If you give a child a cell phone you’re opening them up to the entire world now.”

Patrick Caver speaks at a recent meeting of the Hartselle Rotary Club.

“We can’t stop it – even without smartphones – schools give out Chromebooks now,” he said. “Even if you take your child’s phone away they have access.”

Caver said he welcomes attendees to bring their children’s electronics. “It’s easier to show people what Yolo is than to just explain it,” he said.

“A lot of these otherwise innocent games have chatrooms. Even a game called Roblox – a lego game has a chat room,” he warned. “If they don’t sometimes pornographic pictures can pop up without warning.”

Caver travels the state to teach classes to inform and educate. “I go to church groups, conferences, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts … anywhere I can reach parents and teach them about how dangerous these places can be for their children.”

Warning the public of the lasting effects of sending nude or partially nude photos is also something Caver shares in the classes he teaches. “If you’re younger than 17 and you send a nude or partially nude photo of your own body to someone you can be charged with production of child pornography,” he said. “Once they get to the court system it’s too late,” he said. “If you’re charged with the production of child porn, you have to register as a sex offender and it affects their entire lives.”

“Snapchat never deletes anything and that’s something that kids don’t know. Just because it’s not on your cell phone doesn’t mean that it no longer exists,” he said. “If I send you a text message it doesn’t simply go from my phone to yours. It goes from my phone to a cell tower that copies it and sends a signal to your phone.”

“As parents, we can’t understand it … technology came on so fast and we didn’t have all of this,” he added. “There are so many apps these days that exist only to hide photos and other apps from parents. That’s why it’s so important to stay aware and talk to your kids.”

“It’s going to have to start with the parents. When it comes to driving when our kids turn 16 … we’re the experts,” he said. “We tell our kids what the laws are, what they can do, where they can park, how fast they can drive. As parents, we’re experts because we’ve done it before. But with this, no one has taught us what Snapchat is so how do we teach our kids? We have to educate ourselves first.”