I-Team: More teens solicited to join ISIS

Posted at 3:43 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 19:45:02-04

ISIS is attempting to recruit American teens at an alarming rate.

The I-Team discovered the FBI is seeing a dramatic increase in cases, even here in Florida.

Imagine your typical teenager from a middle class family, a 16-year-old young man, Christian raised, who has never been in trouble.

"This particular teenager didn't know anything about ISIS," FBI Special Agent Dave Couvertier said.

Couvertier said that 16-year-old, from the west central Florida area, was in his room playing online when one day he was targeted by then later developed a relationship with an ISIS member.

"This child was actually not only radicalized but then mobilized to commit an act of violence to prove his loyalty to his friend and the cause," Couvertier said.

Couvertier said that order to prove loyalty was to kill his own parents and they believed he was about to do it.

"It came to a point where the FBI decided it's time to intervene," he said.

His parents were in denial, he said.

"They were saying, 'Our child doesn't go out, you know, out at night. He doesn't hang out with the wrong people  the wrong crowd. He's always in his room, so he's safe,'" he said.

He's been getting counseling for more than a year and is still struggling.

FBI agents say they've seen a dramatic increase in cases of ISIS trying to recruit American teens.

"It's one of our top priorities if not the top priority for us."

Two recent reports from Georgetown University highlight the troubling trend. It states ISIS is recruiting within the U.S. about three times the rate of Al Qaeda.

More than 250 individuals from the United States have joined or attempted to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

There were 56 ISIS related arrests in 2015, the most terrorism arrests since September 11.

One report also says social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization of ISIS sympathizers.

Couvertier said it usually starts on social media or phone apps.

Additionally, teens playing war games on video game systems are a desired target. They like to shoot, and they may be interested in violence.

They can even talk to them on a headset.

"What they're really looking for is a vulnerability that they can exploit. Basically what violent extremists want this child to do is go out and kill or hurt innocent people," he said.

The FBI has launched an online mini course for teens and parents called "Don't be a puppet." It teaches you about violent extremist groups, their recruiting methods, and where to get help.

Once completed you get a certificate from the FBI.    

Agents say it's a good tool to get the conversation going in your home.

Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning investigative reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team.

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