AMITE, La. -- Students and parents in Tangipahoa Parish got an eye-opening lesson Tuesday on Internet safety.
“The 12-year-old boy jumped in the taxi, this man was the taxi driver, he's also a convicted sex offender. He is the girl that this boy thought he was talking to," said Toby Aguillard, director of Internet Crimes Against Children Division.
That story, and several like it, all cases in Louisiana, were the basis of the presentation by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office at Oak Forest Academy in Amite Tuesday.
Students were shown how predators hide behind fake profiles on social networking sites, as well as how sexting can lead to pictures spreading and existing somewhere, forever.
Statistics, including that one in seven 10- to 17-year-olds who use the internet are solicited by predators, helps the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office prove bad things can happen to any kid.
“We hope that it impacts them and helps them realize that maybe some of the things they're doing online can ultimately embarrass or hurt them in the future," Aguillard said.
The messages seemed clear to students.
"I don't have a Facebook because my dad doesn't want me to and I kinda understand why," said Ashton Durand.
Kaylee Durand said, "You just think it's you and your friends and that its just innocent, but I guess you don't realize what's out there until you see all the statistics and what actually does happen."
For parents, it’s a fear factor. For educators, it’s necessary.
“It's really scary to hear some of the stories and to things that are happening right here in our area and knowing that it could be your own children," said parent Melissa Durand.
"Young people live in a false sense of security that ‘that'll never happen to me, that only happens on TV’ and in actuality, it happens all over, it happens here in Tangipahoa Parish," said Principal Jason Brabhan.
The Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office presentation inspired a state law in 2011 requiring schools to educate kids about Internet safety.