We need to have an open conversation with our kids about avoiding extremist propaganda and recruiters online. We talk with our teenagers about sex, drugs, and alcohol. We talk with our kids about dangerous topics in order to educate and prevent problems. Even if the topic is uncomfortable to discuss, we sit down and have the important conversations.
A majority of teenagers will never develop extremist views, but it’s still important to have that conversation. People don’t just suddenly become radicalized, they are often influenced online by propaganda and recruiters.
The Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) released a study in February 2017, The American Face of ISIS. CPOST states, “ISIS propaganda videos played a central role in the radicalisation of indictees. 83% watched ISIS propaganda videos, including execution videos and lectures by terrorist leaders.”
ISIS is losing physical territory and will eventually be defeated in Syria. But their online presence will continue to influence people. In Virtual Caliphate, the authors state, “Cyberspace allows ISIL to deftly turn tactical defeats on the battlefield into glorious martyrdom operations that highlight the bravery and commitment of its fighters.” ISIS has strategically and successfully created a strong online brand.
A recent article in The New York Times, A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization recommends: “Recognize the internet as an extremist breeding ground.” Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step to solving the problem.
Christianne Boudreau’s son, Damian Clairmont, was raised in Calgary, Canada. Damian converted to Islam when he was 17 and Christianne supported his choice. A few years later, Damian was secretly radicalized and became one of the first public cases of a North American foreign fighter traveling to Syria to fight alongside ISIS. In an interview with the Women’s U.N. Report Network, Christianne says, “We educate our kids about drugs, sex, alcohol, bullying — all these other topics and how to cope with it, but we’re not educating them about this.”
We can’t afford to pretend our kids and communities are immune to this threat. It’s very easy to find sophisticated ISIS propaganda – their clips are slick and dramatic with a clear vision and target audience. And there are recruiters available to chat online with your children 24/7. We can’t realistically control all of the content our kids view online. But we can certainly have an open conversation with them.