As the number of children being arrested for terrorism offenses increases at an unprecedented rate, Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) in the U.K. has teamed up with the country’s biggest parenting website – Netmums – to help parents protect their children from terrorist grooming. The partnership with the popular parenting resource has revealed that only 28% of Netmums users surveyed know how to spot the signs of radicalization – even as the targeting of children by extremists online reaches record levels.
With around four million parents visiting Netmums every month, CTP has joined forces to provide website users with information, exclusive resources and support to help educate parents about the dangers of radicalization, the signs to spot and how to act to protect their children – just like they would against any other type of online harm such as sexual exploitation or cyber-bullying.
For the last 12 months, experts at CTP have warned about the worrying signs they are seeing in the U.K.’s Prevent and terrorism arrest data – with new statistics showing that children under the age of 18 made up 13% of all terrorism arrests in the year to 31 March 2021, nearly trebling from just 5% in the previous year.
While terrorism arrests across every other age group have fallen in the last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – 21 children under the age of 18 were arrested in the year to 31 March 2021, making them the only demographic to show an increase.
The increasing prevalence of young people in the extreme right wing terrorism space is a particular concern, with much of this growth resulting from children being targeted and radicalized by right wing extremists online – including through multi-player online gaming, YouTube and chat forums.
Of those 21 children arrested for terrorism offenses in the last financial year, 15 of them were linked to extreme right wing terrorism. This worrying growth has been occurring since 2015, when young people under the age of 24 accounted for less than 20% of extreme right wing terrorism arrests – in 2020 they accounted for nearly 60%.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By acting early, it is possible to stop someone from being exploited by extremists.
Prevent officers have the expertise, experience and resources to help parents spot when their children are at risk of becoming victims to radicalization.
“The trends we are seeing in our data are incredibly concerning,” said Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, CTP’s National Coordinator for Prevent. “We must do more as a society to protect children from this threat and CTP want to help parents, friends and families recognize when children are becoming the victims of radicalization,
“Family and friends are best placed to spot the worrying behavior changes which can indicate that a loved one is heading down a path towards terrorism, but currently just 2% of referrals into Prevent come from that group.
“That is why we have teamed up with Netmums, to provide their millions of users with clear, simple information about what to look out for, and where to go for help. I am worried about what we are seeing, but I am also hopeful that we can do something to stop it.
“Not all children are vulnerable, but some are, and all parents should be aware of the dangers so they can help protect their child if necessary.
That requires parents, friends and family to help us by talking to their children about what they view online, and acting early to share their concerns and seeking support if they fear someone they know and love is in danger of being radicalized.
“Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is – action which won’t ruin their lives but may well save them. It is vital to act early.”
Associate Editor of Netmums, Wendy Golledge, said: “Netmums is pleased to be working alongside Counter Terrorism Policing to raise awareness of the issue of radicalization among children in the U.K.
“As parents, we are all too aware of the dangers the online world can pose to our children, and while we’re well versed in issues around social media and online bullying, as our survey demonstrated, we’re less aware of radicalization and how to spot the signs.
“Together we want to help parents keep their children safe online.”
Over the next four weeks, Netmums users will be able to access exclusive articles and digital content such as videos, as well as bespoke support provided by safeguarding experts via the website’s forum pages.
Netmums will host a sponsored ‘drop in clinic’ where parents can ask a Prevent Officer questions and seek advice if they have concerns.