At North of England Training we take every possible step to prevent radicalisation by extremists. We deliver training on Fundamental British Values and Prevent (one of four elements of CONTEST, the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy) to every single learner no matter what their age or background is and take extra steps to promote this even further when training Teaching Assistants and other learners who are responsible for young people at work.
We promote the work of Channel (which provides support across the country to those who may be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism) and other organisations such as Educate Against Hate within our training to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep the country safe. It can be frightening and overwhelming to consider your peers, children or students being radicalised by extremist groups, but as British Citizens we all have an important role to play in preventing these upsetting events. Below we have compiled some simple advice on spotting, preventing and reporting radicalisation and terrorism, specifically in young people. For advice on preventing radicalisation at all ages, see the bottom of this post.
Why are children vulnerable to radicalisation by extremists?
Young people from all backgrounds can become radicalised – even those from happy, stable families and homes and those doing well in school. Growing up is tough and young people often struggle to find a sense of identity. When a young person is part of a minority group or another culture, living in Britain can make them feel distant from their cultural or religious heritage and make them question where they belong. They may also feel isolated from British culture and struggle to find a sense of belonging.
What can increase a young person’s risk of radicalisation?
A young person’s individual circumstances such as family trauma, bullying, experience of racism or discrimination, special educational needs and social difficulties can all increase their risk of radicalisation. Extremists target those with low self-esteem and feelings of injustice or failure as well as those who struggle to understand the consequences of their actions – all of which are things that many young people struggle with for a number of reasons.
Teenagers in particular are experiencing a period of change and confusion. They are often feeling very alone (possibly spending lots of time alone), have unsupervised internet access and personal mobile devices and can be reluctant to accept and trust authority. This can make them desperate for guidance or understanding – things that extremists sometimes offer as a way of luring young people in.
Factors such as friends or family in extremist groups, exposure to narrow and harmful opinions, racial or religious tension in their community and events impacting their country of origin (such as war or terrorist attacks) can also massively impact a young person and put them in danger of radicalisation by extremists.
What are the signs of radicalisation?
Signs of radicalisation vary from very subtle to explicitly obvious and the radicalisation of a young person could take place almost immediately or gradually over a long period of time. Some possible signs to look out for include:
• Becoming argumentative and unwilling to hear opinions that challenge their own
• Being abusive to peers of other races, religions, genders and sexualities
• Being susceptible to conspiracy theories
• Suddenly isolating themselves from friends
• Significantly changing their dress or appearance
• Converting to a new religion
• Multiple or inaccurate online identities (fake names, pictures etc)
• Reluctance to discuss their activity online or on mobile devices
If a young person is sympathising with extremist ideologies, accessing extremist materials, justifying the actions of extremist groups or researching extremist organisations then it is time for urgent preventative action. You can seek advice from organisations such Educate Against Hate, Let’s Talk About It and Channel and also by contacting the young person’s social workers or teachers directly.
How can we prevent the radicalisation of young people by extremists?
Schools and nurseries are expected to have safeguarding policies in place to keep young people safe and promote healthy cultural, social, moral and spiritual development. It is important that young people feel like there is a safe place for them to discuss issues such as religion, culture and race so whether you are a parent, relative, teacher or youth worker you can help by being open to what young people have to say and making a conscious effort to help them develop skills such as critical thinking. This helps young people to challenge extremist arguments and form healthy, safe opinions and relationships within their communities.
Talking honestly and regularly to children about issues surrounding extremism can make them feel less alone and reduce their risk of radicalisation. Making sure your children or students are safe online and when using their mobile phone will also help you to keep them safe. The internet and social media are powerful tools for extremists to spread their messages with and are often the first places that young people turn to when they feel vulnerable and alone.
Where can I go for help, guidance or to flag potential radicalisation, terrorism and extremism?
If you are worried about a young person’s online safety or want advice on the issues we have mentioned here, you can call the NSPCC Online Safety Helpline on 0808 800 5002.
If you think someone is in immediate danger, might be joining an extremist organisation or if you see or hear something that may be terrorist-related, you can call 999 or the Anti-Terrorist helpline on 0800 789 321 (calls are confidential).
Online resources such as Educate Against Hate, Let’s Talk About It and Channel are also fantastic places for citizens, parents, teachers, schools and young people to go for advice on radicalisation by extremists. Channel provides nationwide support to anyone of any age from any background who may be vulnerable to radicalisation.
We have a Safeguarding section on our website where you can find more advice and the details of our Safeguarding Officer, Emmelia Taylor, who is happy to offer further guidance on any concerns you may have about someone’s wellbeing. This can be regarding other issues such as drug use, sexual abuse and alcohol as well as the issues mentioned above.