In recent months, policymakers, religious groups and entire communities have been accused of ‘burying their head in the sand’ over radicalisation.
But in the wake of the Parson’s Green bomb and the arrest of teenage suspects in the days following, we need to wake up to the reality of extremism.
At its core radicalisation of children is yet another form of online grooming; exploiting a child for a particular use or purpose.
So the same way parents warn their children about sexual predators online, they have a responsibility to make sure their children are aware extremists may be using the web as a tool to push their ideologies.
Our recent Cybersafe study found that in the past three years there was a 28% rise* in the amount of parents concerned about radicalisation, which reiterates that it is something we need to openly address.
Adolescence is a time where young people are particularly vulnerable as they are at their most impulsive which can leave them open to being influenced by peers, older people and the web. Not to mention, they are keen to discover their own identity and their curiosity can lead them to explore new ideas and issues online.
So where do they find radical content?
Children may choose to actively seek out the content or they could be persuaded by others. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Ask FM have been used by extremists looking to target youngsters. Like grooming, the person may not say who they really are and their true identity may be concealed as they encourage them to embrace extreme views and beliefs.
If you have concerns about radicalisation there are number of signs you can look out for. Be mindful that a lot of the signs can be fairly common among teenagers so you should look out for increased instances of any of the below.
- A conviction that their religion, culture or beliefs are under threat and treated unjustly
- A tendency to look for conspiracy theories and distrust of mainstream media
- The need for identity and belonging
- Being secretive about who they’ve been talking to online and what sites they visit
- Switching screens when you come near the phone, tablet or computer
- Possessing items – electronic devices or phones – you haven’t given them
- Becoming emotionally volatile.
- Script-talking – Expressing views that you feel don’t sound very them and sound as though they are someone else talking.
If you have spotted any of the above signs – Here’s some handy tips on tackling the subject with your child:
Let them know you’re there to help them if they get into trouble online – and if they’re concerned about something they can come to you.
Be calm and don’t get angry
Your child is far more likely to be open and honest with you if you remain calm about the situation.
Talk to them about their online friendships.
Find out what sites they go to, where they met their online friends, how they communicate. Talk to them about being cautious about what they share with people online. Remind them that even though people they’ve met online might feel like friends they may not be who they say they are, and that they may have ulterior motives for befriending them
Don’t be confrontational
Your child’s beliefs are a sensitive subject and need handling carefully as you don’t want to push them away or shut them out.
Be safe in real life
Teach your child to never arrange to meet someone they only know online without a parent present.
Encourage them to share their ideas and opinions
Many young people are often not aware of the realities and consequences of the radical ideas they have formed or the arguments against them