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Keeping children and young people safe against radicalisation and extremism


Radicalisation is defined as the process by which people come to support terrorism and extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups.

There is no obvious profile of a person likely to become involved in extremism or a single indicator of when a person might move to adopt violence in support of extremist ideas. The process of radicalisation is different for every individual and can take place over an extended period or within a very short time frame.


Extremism is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas (HM Government Prevent Strategy 2011). Violent extremism is a real threat to all communities - violent extremists actively aim to damage community relations and create division. That is why it is vital that we all work together to support those who are vulnerable in this way.

What is terrorist material?

  • Articles, images, speeches or videos that promote terrorism
  • Chat forums with postings calling for people to commit acts of terrorism or violent extremism
  • Content encouraging people to commit acts of terrorism
  • Websites made by terrorist organisations
  • Videos of terrorist attacks

Recognising extremism - signs may include:

  • Out of character changes in dress, 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

Supporting children and young people to stay safe - tips for parents

  • Know where your child is, who they are with and check this for yourself
  • Be aware of 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 online 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 may be 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

Keeping children and young people safe

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 that of their own family.

Children and young people have a natural curiosity which, as parents and 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 from across the UK have been persuaded to leave the country against the wishes of their families, or in secret, putting themselves in extreme danger.

Why might a young person be drawn towards extremist ideologies?

They may be:

  • searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging
  • driven by the desire for 'adventure' and excitement
  • driven by a need to raise their self-esteem and promote their 'street cred'
  • drawn to a group or individual who can offer identity, social network and support
  • 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 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.

What can I do to prevent this?

You can make the internet safer for your family by restricting access to risky sites. You can also report extremist content that you find online.

All the major Internet Service Providers (such as Sky, BT, Talk Talk and Virgin Media) offer security and parental control packages. These services let you control or block access at home to specific sites or types of content, such as chat rooms, as well as protecting your computer from viruses and other people accessing your personal data. Contact your Internet Service Provider for more information.

More information

There is a lot of advice on how you can protect your family from unsuitable content on the internet.

Information, help and advice about internet safety - Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre

Report online terrorist material - GOV.UK: Report terrorism

Peer interaction

Young people at risk may display extrovert behaviour, start getting into trouble at school or on the streets and mixing with other children who behave badly. However, this is not always the case.

Sometimes those at risk may be encouraged, by the people they are in contact with, not to draw attention to themselves. As part of some forms of radicalisation parents may feel their child's behaviour seems to be improving: children may become quieter and more serious about their studies; and mix with a group of people who seem to be better behaved than previous friends.

TV and media

The media provide a view on world affairs. However, this is often a very simple version of events which are in reality very complex. Therefore children may not understand the situation fully or appreciate the dangers involved in the views of some groups.

Getting help and prevention

If you have any concerns that your child may be being influenced by others get help - talk to someone you can trust.

If you feel there is a risk of a child leaving the country, consider what precautions you could take to prevent travel. You should also consider what access your child has to saving accounts or gifts of money from family and friends. You might want to consider taking the precaution of locking their passport in a safe place.

Some young people think they need to use a passport for confirming their age - they do not - they can apply for an identification card.

To obtain an official photo ID for the UK visit Validate UK. For more information telephone: 01434 634996

Confidential helpline

The Active Change Foundation (ACF) provides a confidential helpline to prevent British nationals from travelling to conflict zones. The ACF confidential helpline is 020 8539 2770.

You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously and for free on 0800 555 111.

Anyone with concerns for the safety or wellbeing of a child or young person can contact:

  • Early Help Advice Team on 0191 424 6214
  • Contact and Referral Service (9am-5pm) on 0191 424 5010 or out of office hours on 0191 456 2093

If there is an immediate threat of harm to others or information on imminent travel contact the Police 999 or Anti-Terrorist Hotline 0800 789 321. You can remain anonymous, and you may save lives.

Report terrorism online at GOV.UK: Report terrorism

Further sources of support and information

School - 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.

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