Former special agents launch cyber awareness program

Former special agents launch cyber awareness program
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Recent statistics show younger teens across the country are falling prey to online sex predators and cyber bullies.

A new initiative, launched by two special agents who investigated cybercrimes, aims to use real-life experiences to warn children about the dangers lurking online.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat. The list of social media sites is long. Most teens admit they log on several times a day.

"Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat," said East Ascension High senior Dari Johnson.

"I only have one. Snap chat," said classmate Jamien Sampson.

Most of the applications can be accessed instantly from their cell phones.

Former special agents for Louisiana's Crimes against Children Task Force, Chris Duff and Toby Aguillard, have seen the dark side of the digital age firsthand. They said it is one filled with bullies and sex predators who target children.

"We really realized after arresting these guys and doing it on the law enforcement side that this is a multi-faceted war," Duff said.

For that reason, the pair joined forces to start the non-profit, Innocent Eyes. The men talk to middle and high schoolers about the risks associated with communicating online.

Duff said statistics show 37 percent of teens use instant message to say things that they would not say to others in person, and 12 percent consider suicide after photos they have shared online go public.

On Monday, they shared that information with East Ascension High School students.

"We are trying to make them realize how damaging just starting with a text or a post can really explode into someone injuring themselves or the effect it can actually have on people," Duff said.

The presenters use facts from actual cases to get through to the teens, right down to the cases cracked in Ascension Parish.

"The most shocking thing is how prevalent it is. It's not uncommon with kids our age, how common it is really scary," Sampson said.

"I've actually gone through and looked at all the people I know, and if I don't actually know you, then do I really need to know what you are doing," Johnson said.

Duff said if that kind of reaction goes viral, it will go a long way in protecting innocent eyes.

Innocent Eyes is hosting two free public presentations for parents on Tuesday, January 26.

The talk for parents of middle school aged students is set for 6 p.m. It will be followed by a presentation for parents of high school students at 7 p.m.

Both will be held in the East Ascension High School Cafetorium.

The presentations are sponsored by Cox Communications.

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