This article first appeared in issue 5 of Digital Parenting magazine.
Your kids spend a lot of time developing their identities online, and this is perfectly normal. Radicalisation happens when they build those identities around drastically simplified ideas. In reality, everyone’s identity is multifaceted, but jihadist ideologies promote the idea that there is only one truth. Parents can help to combat radicalisation by encouraging the view that it’s perfectly OK for people to be many things: a Muslim of Pakistani origin, a computer nerd, a rapper, a son, gay and a Manchester United fan, for example.
Radicalisation takes place over a period of time, and for much of that time the changes may not be visible. Parents are often best placed to spot the subtle signs that teenagers may be being groomed into radicalisation online, like spending more time in their rooms and refusing to discuss what they are doing in the digital space.
Preventing radicalisation involves:
Understanding the ideas underlying extremism, which are based on black-and-white views of the world
Appreciating why young people are sometimes drawn to these ideas
Communicating the reality of living life in line with these ideas
Persuading young people that our own values of equality and freedom are worthwhile
Convincing young people that they don’t have to choose to be one thing or the other, for example, either a devout Muslim or a Londoner
The single most important thing you can do to prevent extremism is to explain to your kids why equality matters and why it’s important to support people’s right to practice their own religion and to speak freely, regardless of race, gender or sexuality. Make sure that when you talk to them, you don’t confuse the religion of Islam with the political extremism of Islamism. Then, when we challenge extremists, we won’t fuel prejudice and damage anyone’s freedom to practice their religion.
Lastly, don’t ignore extremism if you see it. It should be challenged in the same way you might challenge bullying, homophobia or racism. If you don’t, young people may assume adults just like you think it’s acceptable.
For more information and support, find out more on the Families Against Terrorism and Extremism FATE website.
This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.