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. Children and young people have a natural curiosity which as parents/carers we want to encourage. However, as our children grow up we have to take different steps to ensure their safety. Currently a number of young girls and boys have been persuaded to leave the country against the wishes of their families, or in secret, putting themselves in extreme danger. This information is designed to help parents/carers keep their children safe and explains how they should respond if they have a concern.
Why might a Young Person be drawn towards Extremist Ideologies?
- 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 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, Vine 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 school 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 child’s behaviour, parents/carers are encouraged to inquire about their children’s wellbeing. It is important for parents/carers to keep an open channel of communication that involves listening to their children’s views and concerns. You may not always agree with your child, 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 child, you may want to talk to a local faith or community leader, person of influence or teacher.
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. Children 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.
Signs may include:
- Out of character changes in behaviour and peer relationships
- Secretive behaviour
- Losing interest in friends and activities
- Showing sympathy for extremist causes
- Glorifying violence
- Possessing illegal or extremist literature
- Advocating messages similar to illegal organisations such as: “Muslims Against Crusades” or other non-proscribed extremist groups such as the English Defence League
How can Parents/Carers Support Children and Young People to Stay Safe?
- Know where your child is, who they are with and check this for yourself
- Know your child’s friends and their families
- Keep lines of communication open, listen to your child and talk to them about their interests
- Encourage them to take up positive activities with local groups that you can trust
- Talk to your child 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 child to show an interest in the local community and show respect for people from all faiths and backgrounds
- Help your child 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 child’s on-line activity and update your own knowledge
- Know what social media and messaging sites your child uses
- Remind your child 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 child may be being influenced by others get help – talk to someone you can trust, this could be your faith leader, family members who are peers of your children, or outside help
- If you feel there is a risk of a child 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 children’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 child 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
Further Sources of Support and Information
If you have a concern please talk to your child’s class teacher or another person in the school that you trust as soon as possible. They will be able to help and can access support for you and your child.