As the number of children being arrested, nationally, for terrorism offences increases at an unprecedented rate, Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) has this week teamed up with the UK’s biggest parenting website – Netmums – to help parents protect their children from terrorist grooming.
The ground-breaking partnership with the popular parenting resource was launched on Monday 6 July. With around four million parents visiting Netmums every month, CTP has joined forces to provide website users with information, exclusive resources and support to help educate parents about the dangers of radicalisation, the signs to spot and how to act to protect their children – just like they would against any other type of online harm such as sexual exploitation or cyber-bullying.
Netmums has revealed that only 28% of Netmums users surveyed know how to spot the signs of radicalisation – even as the targeting of children by extremists online reaches record levels.
For the last 12 months, experts at CTP have warned about the worrying signs they are seeing in the UK’s Prevent and terrorism arrest data – with new statistics showing that children under the age of 18 made up 13% of all terrorism arrests in the year to 31 March 2021, nearly trebling nationwide from just 5% in the previous year.
While terrorism arrests across every other age group have fallen in the last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – national figures show that 21 children under the age of 18 were arrested in the year to 31 March 2021, making them the only demographic to show an increase.
The increasing prevalence of young people in the extreme right-wing terrorism space is a particular concern, with much of this growth resulting from children being targeted and radicalised by right-wing extremists online – including through multi-player online gaming, YouTube and chat forums.
Of those 21 children arrested for terrorism offences in the last financial year, 15 of them were linked to extreme right-wing terrorism. This worrying growth has been occurring since 2015, when young people under the age of 24 accounted for less than 20% of extreme right-wing terrorism arrests – in 2020 they accounted for nearly 60%.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By acting early, it is possible to stop someone from being exploited by extremists.
Sergeant Martin Leyland, of the Prevent team in Merseyside, said: “Prevent officers have the expertise, experience and resources to help parents spot when their children are at risk of becoming victims to radicalisation. Through the Prevent programme, working with our partners, we can help them before it is too late.
”I am pleased about the newly-formed partnership between CTP and Netmums. This is an important step in our fight to protect vulnerable members of the community from the influence of extremist organisations.
“The uneasy truth is that extremist and terrorist organisations target vulnerable people, including children in order to manipulate and groom them using their extremist narratives. It is vital that as parents, guardians or family members, you are aware of the signs that a loved one maybe being targeted.
“Prevent should not be feared, we do not judge or criminalise. We are there to provide a bespoke, multi-agency, early intervention support programme to prevent people from becoming terrorists.
“I would encourage all parents and guardians to visit www.netmums.com as well as www.actearly.uk . Familiarise yourself with identifying signs of concern and how to seek support with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable people in our lives from the exploitation of extremist and terrorist organisations.
“Reaching out and sharing your concerns may be a difficult step, but it won’t ruin their lives – it may well save them. It is vital to act early.”
Chief Superintendent Nik Adams – CTP’s National Coordinator for Prevent said, “We must do more as a society to protect children from this threat and CTP wants to help parents, friends and families recognise when children are becoming the victims of radicalisation.
“Family and friends are best placed to spot the worrying behaviour changes which can indicate that a loved one is heading down a path towards terrorism, but currently just 2% of referrals into Prevent come from that group.
“That is why we have teamed up with Netmums, to provide their millions of users with clear, simple information about what to look out for, and where to go for help.”
Associate Editor of Netmums, Wendy Golledge, said, “Netmums is pleased to be working alongside Counter Terrorism Policing to raise awareness of the issue of radicalisation among children in the UK.
“As parents, we are all too aware of the dangers the online world can pose to our children, and while we’re well versed in issues around social media and online bullying, as our survey demonstrated, we’re less aware of radicalisation and how to spot the signs.
“Together we want to help parents keep their children safe online.”
Over the next four weeks, Netmums users will be able to access exclusive articles and digital content such as videos, as well as bespoke support provided by safeguarding experts via the website’s forum pages.
Netmums will also host a sponsored ‘drop-in clinic’ where parents can ask a Prevent officer questions and seek advice if they have concerns.
For help and advice, or if you are worried that someone you know is being radicalised, visit www.actearly.uk , or call the national Police Prevent Advice Line on 0800 011 3764, in confidence. Specially trained Prevent officers will listen carefully to your concerns.