IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office will introduce a cyber safety program into three Iredell-Statesville School District high schools in the spring in hopes it will help students avoid dangerous online situations that have popped up.  

The program is called CyberSwat, a national program that has been rolled out in other states but has yet to make its way into North Carolina until now.  

The program has been described as being peer-to-peer based and will be introduced to students at Lake Norman High School, West Iredell High School, and North Iredell High School.  

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Through the program, ICSO school resource officers will teach senior and junior students about some of the major dangers online, such as cyberbullying, human trafficking, and adults grooming students to exploit them sexually.  

The idea is that those older students will pass down what they learn to younger students.  

Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell said, “It’s a lot like law enforcement. We depend on other officers to train younger officers…they learn a lot more from other kids than they do from us.”  

Students across the country have been asked to rely more on the internet and online sources for their education, through remote learning. 

This has also made way for more chances of students stumbling upon these online dangers.  

Sheriff Campbell explained, “The threats have increased by about 100 percent. But, with these, I hope to trend it down lower.” 

Designers of CyberSwat, Safe Surfin’, described this approach as:   

“This program is designed to be taught by students to students. Each school group will act as a club, overseen by the School Resource Officer at the school, and the students will lead. Safe Surfin’, designers of this program, along with our deputies, realize young people learn better when spoken to and taught by their age-related peers. 

“Some of the courses this program teaches include cyberbullying, online predators, human trafficking, and other online risks teenagers and pre-teens regularly face. Peer-to-peer student mentors then reach out to younger students to share what they have learned and present projects they have created to teach lessons about online safety and risks on the Internet.” 

The interaction will also help law enforcement under some of the lesser-known applications that students use while on the internet.  

Sheriff Campbell said, “It’s very cryptic in other places, but I promise you – anything going on in the schools – students are going to be able to tell us. We just got to build the relationship to tell us.”  

The program will not start until the early part of 2023.  

Until then, SROs who will be a part of CyberSwat will go through a training course on how to best explain this to students and how to help them pass this information down in the best way possible.  

While it’s unknown to Sheriff Campbell how many students will be involved in this program at the beginning, he said that he is confident there will be significant interest.