SAFEGUARDING YOUR CHILD
The parent/child relationship is the foundation to keeping children safe and supporting their social development and educational attainment.
Parenting can be a challenging task. Maintaining a positive relationship can sometimes be difficult as children grow and develop and seek an identity that may be different from their own family.
As a parent, you need to be aware that individuals and groups with extremist views use the internet and social media to spread their ideologies. Children spend a lot of time online, and this has made them more susceptible to extremism, whether from Islamists or the far right.
Extremist groups tap into young people’s insecurities. They often claim to offer answers and promise a sense of identity that vulnerable young people often seek. These feelings of insecurity can become more heightened when a child is feeling:
- Marginalised from society
- Trapped between two cultures
- Excluded from the mainstream
As part of their recruitment strategy, extremist groups also work to undermine the authority of parents. This can be particularly attractive to vulnerable children who don’t have parental guidance, or who come from unstable homes.
Extremist groups also use very sophisticated methods to trigger feelings of anger, injustice and shame that a child might feel towards a parent.
But it’s important to remember that any child can be affected by extremism. You can play a vital role by providing emotional support that acts as an alternative to the extremist narratives that your child might feel comfortable believing.
It’s not easy to talk to your child about the dangers of extremism, but as with issues such as sex and drugs, it’s necessary. Give your child a safe space where they can talk about difficult subjects. The more you talk, the more confident your child will become in challenging extremist narratives.
VULNERABILITIES AND WARNING SIGNS
To be in the best position to protect your child, you should be aware of the factors that may make them more vulnerable to radicalisation.
These could include:
- Struggling with their sense of identity
- Difficult circumstances such as family tensions
- low self-esteem or experiencing a traumatic event
- Troubling external factors such as community tensions, events affecting their region of origin, or having friends or family who have joined extremist groups abroad
- Involvement with criminal groups, experiences of imprisonment and/or poor reintegration into society.
What are the warning signs? There is no single route to radicalisation. It can occur quickly or over a longer period of time. Sometimes the signs are clear and in other cases the changes in attitude or behaviour are less obvious.
Possible warning signs of radicalisation include:
- Changes in attitudes and opinions, including a susceptibility to conspiracy theories, argumentativeness or aggression and a refusal to engage with peers who are different to themselves
- Out of character changes in behaviour and peer relationships. Changes in behaviour and peer group, including distancing themselves from friends, conversion to a new religion, a significant change of appearance and rejecting activities they used to enjoy
- Secretive behaviour, including changes in online identity .
- Support for extremist ideologies and groups. Advocating messages similar to illegal organisations such as: “Muslims Against Crusades” or other non-proscribed extremist groups such as the English Defence League. Showing sympathy for extremist causes
- Losing interest in friends and activities
- Glorifying violence
- Possessing illegal or extremist literature
- They may be searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging
- They may be driven by the desire for ‘adventure’ and excitement
- They may be driven by a need to raise their self-esteem and promote their ‘street cred’
- They may be drawn to a group or individual who can offer identity, a social network or support
- They may be influenced by world events and a sense of grievance resulting in a need to make a difference.
HOW MIGHT THIS HAPPEN?
The internet provides entertainment, connectivity and interaction. Children and young people may need to spend a lot of time on the internet while studying and they may use other social media and messaging sites such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Whatsapp. These can be useful tools, but we need to be aware there are powerful programmes and networks that use these media to reach out to young people and can communicate extremist messages.
Young people at risk may display extrovert behaviour, start getting into trouble at college or on the streets and may mix with other children who behave badly, but this is not always the case.
There are no typical characteristics of young people who may be more at risk than others. However a sudden change in behaviour could be a potential indicator. Sometimes those at risk may be encouraged, by the people they are in contact with, not to draw attention to themselves. If you feel there is a change in your son/daughter’s behaviour, parents/carers are encouraged to inquire about their son/daughter’s wellbeing. It is important for parents/carers to keep an open channel of communication that involves listening to their son/daughter’s views and concerns. You may not always agree with your son/daughter, but you should convey to them that you’ve understood his or her point of view and want the best for them in life. However, if you are concerned about your son/daughter, you may want to discuss this with another family member, family friend of a member of staff at the college.
TV and Media
The media provide a view on world affairs. However, this is often a very simple version of events which, in reality, are very complex. Young adults may not understand the situation fully or appreciate the dangers involved in the views of some groups. They may see things in simple terms and not have the whole picture.
HOW PARENTS/CARERS CAN SUPPORT YOUNG PEOPLE TO STAY SAFE
- Know where your son/daughter is, who they are with and check this for yourself
- Know your son/daughter’s friends and their families
- Keep lines of communication open, listen to your son/daughter and talk to them about their interests
- Encourage them to take up positive activities with local groups that you can trust
- Talk to your son/daughter about what they see on the TV or the internet and explain that what they see or read may not be the whole picture
- Allow and encourage debate and questioning on local and world events and help them see different points of view
- Encourage your son/daughter to show an interest in the local community and show respect for people from all faiths and backgrounds
- Help your son/daughter to understand the dangers of becoming involved in situations about which they may not have the full information
- Teach them that expressing strong views and trying to change things for the better is fine but they should not take violent action against others or support those that do
- Be aware of your son/daughter’s on-line activity and update your own knowledge
- Know what social media and messaging sites your son/daughter uses
- Remind your son/daughter that people they contact over the internet maybe pretending to be someone else or telling them things that are not true
- Explain that anyone who tells them to keep secrets from their family or teachers is likely to be trying to do them harm or put them in danger
- If you have any concerns that your son/daughter may be being influenced by others get help – talk to someone you can trust, this could be your family members, family friends who are peers of your children, or outside help
- If you feel there is a risk of a son/daughter leaving the country, consider what safeguards you could take to avert travel. You might want to consider taking the precaution of securing their passport in a safe place. It may be advisable to keep all of your son/daughter’s passports hidden and safe in order that the passports of siblings cannot be used. Some young people do not need a passport for confirming their age, they can apply for an identification card as an alternative. To obtain an official photo ID for the UK visit: www.validateuk.co.uk
- You should also consider what access your son/daughter has to savings accounts or gifts of money from family and friends. You may wish to suggest that gifts are made in kind and not in cash.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK MY CHILD HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO EXTREMISM OR RADICALISATION?
If you believe your child is at risk you should talk to them. There is advice on educateagainsthate.com about how to have that conversation and the NSPCC can also provide free, confidential advice if you would like to talk it through with someone.
If you have any concerns that your son/daughter may be being influenced by others get help – talk to someone you can trust, this could be your family members, family friends who are peers of your children, or outside help.
How to Report Concerns
- Report possible terrorist activity: www.met.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/ath/possible-terrorist-activity
- Anti- Terrorist Hotline: 0800 789 321
- Report online material promoting terrorism or extremism: www.gov.uk/report-terrorism
Many families plan holidays or heritage trips abroad and take their son/daughters with them in the college holidays. please take a look at this advice for parents/carers when travelling abroad.
We would like to advise all parents and carers to click on the link below and check whether the Travel Advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office considers it safe for travel and whether extra precautions need to be taken. We want all our students to be safe in and out of college and we hope parents will take every measure to keep their children safe.
What is Prevent?
Prevent aims to stop people from being drawn into terrorism. It is part of the government’s counter -terrorism strategy.
If you would like to find out more about the Prevent Strategy please click here.
Since 1 July 2015 the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a duty on certain bodies to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. This includes:
- Local authorities
- Schools (excluding higher and further education)
- Further education
- Higher education
- The health sector
- Prisons and probation
- The Police
Tackling extremist material is important to protect the public and prevent offences that incite or promote terrorism and extremism.
Where there is any concern about internet content, it can be reported and potentially removed by filling in a short form on the GOV.UK website here.