Online issues and worries: online radicalisation and extremism
Extremism is someone having strong beliefs (usually about politics, religion or social issues) that most people don’t find acceptable or reasonable.
What is radicalisation, extremism and terrorism?
Extremism is someone having strong beliefs (usually about politics, religion or social issues) that most people don’t find acceptable or reasonable. People that have extreme views are called extremists.
Radicalisation is when somebody is convinced to start supporting or believing extremist ideas. They are radicalised (or influenced) by others to think like this.
Radicalisation and extremism can sometimes lead to terrorism. This is when threats or violent acts are taken to bring attention to extreme beliefs or views. This is usually political, racial or religious. Sometimes weapons or explosives are used, or it can happen digitally by hacking into electronic systems.
How does it happen?
Radicalisation often happens online, on social media, group chats, or websites before moving on to private chats or less known communication channels. There is no set pattern or time. Extremists may build up your trust gradually, and you might not even realise that it’s happening. In some situations you may already know the people trying to radicalise you, either through family, friends or social networks.
- grooming – convincing you to do something over time
- exploitation – using you to do something for someone else’s benefit
- manipulation – using clever ways to get you emotionally involved
- exposure – showing you harmful and violent materials and information that supports someone else’s beliefs
Who does it happen to?
Anybody can be radicalised. When you are young, it’s natural to want to push the boundaries and find out who you are as a person. You might be more open to exploring new and different things. It doesn’t happen to just one type of person, but the fact that you may not have formed your own views on things yet could make you an easier target.
Some children and young people are more at risk of radicalisation. This could be because they are:
- easily influenced
- wanting to be accepted and belong
- suffering from mental health issues
There might be things going on in your life that make you more vulnerable, like being bullied or losing a loved one. Perhaps things are happening in the community that influence you, like discrimination, people being treated unfairly or tension between groups.
How to protect yourself from radicalisation
- Form your own opinions. Take time to research everything that you see online on trusted, reliable websites and look at all sides of the story.
- Talk openly with someone that you can trust.
- Understand what grooming is – giving too many compliments, turning you against people, asking you to keep secrets.
- Learn about lots of different backgrounds, cultures and faiths – don’t just focus on one.
- Avoid using or supporting violence (this is never okay).
- Beware of danger – to you or other people.
- Think of positive ways you can stand up for what you believe in – like contacting your local politician, starting a petition or volunteering.
- Be aware that people are not always who they say they are on the internet.
- Don’t keep secrets just because someone online has asked you to – this is usually because they know it’s wrong.
How to spot if someone is being radicalised
If you’re worried that a friend or someone you know is being radicalised, here are some signs to look out for:
- behaving differently to normal
- distancing themselves from friends or family
- changing the way they dress
- not being interested in doing things they once enjoyed
- getting angry
- being secretive
- talking like they are reading from a script
- looking at extremist things online
- sympathising with extremist causes
- supporting extremist groups or organisations
What should I do?
The world is a fantastic place with many different views, cultures and faiths. Celebrating the differences in our lives, accepting others and their opinions helps us to become well-rounded respectful people.
If someone shares extremist content with you, including blogs, images, videos, speeches and websites that promote or support terrorism, then switch it off and report it. You could also take screenshots and copy the web address to include when you are reporting.
Never share content without researching it first. Extremist groups use propaganda (one-sided information to convince people to support), so never take things at face value.
If you’re worried about anything to do with radicalisation, extremism or terrorism, or if you feel that someone is trying to influence you, talk to someone you trust. Be open about your feelings. If you’re not sure how to start a conversation with someone, here are some tips.
If you feel like you can’t talk to anybody, then contact a helpline like Childline or Meic. They will keep everything confidential unless they think you or someone else is in serious danger. If that happens, they will make sure that you get the right help from the right people.
If you’re worried that someone you know is being radicalised, then tell a trusted adult. If they are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.
If you are suspicious about anything related to extremism and terrorism, then report it to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 or report it to MI5.
Where to go for help
If you’re looking for help or information, but you’re worried about starting a conversation with an adult, here are some tips.
- Report extremist online content – a page on the government website where you can anonymously report online material that looks like it supports terrorism or extremism
- Anti-terrorist hotline - report anything suspicious involving extremism and terrorism to 0800 789 321
- Crimestoppers – report a crime anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on their website
- Meic – free and confidential helpline for children and young people in Wales with advisers to help you find the support you need. Call 080880 23456, text 84001 or chat online
- Childline – free, private and confidential helpline for children and young people in the UK where you can talk about anything. Call 0800 1111
Call 999 if you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger