Forensic examiner speaks to students about online safety

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - High school students in Ascension Parish are learning the risks of chatting and sharing personal information online are very real.  Their teacher is a forensic examiner who uncovers sensitive material every day.

These days technology is at the center of nearly every child's universe.  It's at their fingertips at home and in the classroom. Teachers say it's one of their most powerful teaching tools, but the information exchanged in cyberspace can also be very dangerous.

Monica Ford, a computer forensic examiner for the State Attorney General's Office, is talking to high school students about the not-so-cool side of high tech electronics.

"For example, you've taken a picture of yourself at Christmas with your family. If you have a device that is capturing your location services, it would be very easy for a predator to track you to your home," said Ford.

The pictures Ford is talking about pop up constantly on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.  St. Amant sophomores Chris Bourgeois and Noel Balzer consider themselves well-connected.

"I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest," said Bourgeois.

"You have to be careful. You can't reveal too much about yourself to people you don't really know," said Balzer.

The students say they are pretty strict about who is allowed to view their pages, but even then, Ford says there's no guarantee the material posted there is safe.

"There really is no way to privatize your pages. Once you post something online, essentially you have lost your right to privacy. It is available for anyone and everyone to see," said Ford.

Ford says if those pictures wind up in the wrong hands, the person who posted them could be held responsible for serious crimes such as manufacturing child pornography. The warning was enough for some of these students to consider clearing some of their online clutter.    

"I'm going to go delete a lot of the followers that I have that I don't really know, because it's kind of creeping me out," said Balzer.

"I definitely learned about the consequences, because they can be very life-changing and life-threatening," said Bourgeois.  "Because you have no idea whose hands this information can fall into and that's very scary."

The State Attorney General's Office says it's already spread the message to thousands of students across the state.

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