ISIS runs a slick operation – targeting, surrounding and manipulating young people to buy into their twisted ideology. At least 50 percent of their radicalization efforts are conducted online, a fertile medium where most kids can be found today.
While it is extremely useful to be able to spot the signs of radicalization (see below), it is even more important to work on creating an environment where the vulnerabilities to this kind sick influence cannot flourish.
Hold on to Your Kids
Staying connected to your kids in meaningful ways needs to start way before they are vulnerable to radical recruiters. This ultimately means that your children will not only get their values from their peers but also from you.
As they get older (and hopefully wiser), becoming young adults, such a relationship can evolve where they begin to view you not just as a parent but also as a friend.
This means making it a point to:
- Spend quality time with them
- Discuss real world issues with them (including politics and religion, at their level)
- Be genuinely interested in what they are doing (and stay up to date on those subjects so you can explore them together)
- Create an open environment where any idea can be discussed without fear of punishment
- Establish borders with online devices –filters, time limits, etc. (and set a good example of this yourself!)
Who Are Most Vulnerable?
- Kids who feel ostracized or even just not popular with their peers (While you can’t do much to change this, you can use the opportunity to fill the gap, becoming the go-to person in their lives.)
- Kids who feel abandoned – either because of an absent or recently divorced parent, etc.
- Kids who have bad relationships with family members
- Kids who need to dominate or control others
- Kids who seek excitement or adventure
- Kids with mental health issues (depression, post-traumatic stress from other events in their lives, etc.)
- Kids who are already religious (they can be vulnerable to an authority figure convincing them that an an extreme form of their religion is the “true” way)
- Kids who perceive they have been the victims of injustice (especially if they have been the brunt of racist bullying)
- Kids who spend a lot of time online or have no supervision of their online activities
Signs of Radicalization
If your child, friend or even co-worker exhibits the following changes, professional help should be consulted. Don’t think you can handle this alone! There are a variety of free resources available to address radicalization. Don’t make the mistake of thinking everything is under control.
You should suspect radicalization is taking place if see the following signs:
- Becoming very political or religious
- Change in dress or appearance
- Looking down on those who don’t support you child’s new beliefs
- Spending much more time online
- Becoming socially isolated
- Visiting extremist websites
- Spending a lot of time chatting with new online “friends”
- Fighting more often with family and friends
- Justifying violence to support a cause
- Becoming intolerant of those who are different (other religions, races, ethnicities)
Christianne Boudreau lost her son Damian Claimont fighting for ISIS. She has since founded an organization to help other parents. Watch her story below. Christianne can be contacted at @ChristianneBoud or through Hayat Canada Family Support.