Worrying Signs Your Child’s Becoming Radicalised

radicalised child

Reading time: 3 minutes

Suitable for: Families of secondary-age children

Are you worried your child is becoming radicalised? It’s important children explore different viewpoints and ideas. But perhaps you’ve noticed a change in their language or opinions that worries you.

Children and young people encounter extreme views in lots of different ways. Your child may hear things on the news, find information online and follow social media accounts. They can also meet influential people who hold controversial beliefs. 

Extreme views can come from:

  • Political opinions
  • Beliefs
  • Religious ideas
  • Prejudices against specific groups of people

Radicalisation happens when your child starts to believe in these extreme views. They could support terrorist groups or acts. While children can be radicalised, it’s rare for them to be involved in terrorist activities.

How are children radicalised?

Children and young people can become radicalised in different ways. It’s usually happens over time. They may not realise what is happening to them.

Anyone can become radicalised, but some children and young people are more at risk than others. They may have low self-esteem, be victims of discrimination, or have been bullied. 

Children can be radicalised by someone from their family, or people who have authority over them. They can also be influenced by groups using the internet and social media to target vulnerable young people.

Teenage boy exposed to extremist views

What are the signs of radicalisation?

It can be hard to spot that your child holds extreme views, however there are some signs you can look for. 

Signs of radicalisation include:

  • Joining a completely different friendship group
  • Becoming isolated from friends and family
  • Sounding like they are speaking from a script
  • Becoming unable or unwilling to discuss their views and opinions
  • A dramatic change in behaviour
  • Increase in anger or violence
  • Showing disrespect towards others 
  • Using hate language
  • Secretive behaviour, especially online
  • Looking at extremist material or following extreme groups on social media
  • Sharing extreme messages

Remember, these signs may not necessarily mean your child holds extremist views and could be a signal that something else is wrong.

Talking to your child about extremism

If you’re worried your child has extreme views, you might wonder how to talk with them about it. Use TV shows, news articles, or everyday events as opportunities to find out more about their opinions and beliefs. Avoid putting pressure on them or turning it into a lecture.

Try to stay relaxed when you talk, even though you may feel upset, worried, or angry. You can’t force your child to speak, but showing them you’re listening without judgement will encourage them to talk. Be honest about your own opinions and viewpoints. 

If your child talks to you about their views, listen without interrupting or trying to correct their opinions. You can ask questions to find out more and show them how interested you are in what they’re saying. Asking questions that don’t have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer lets them explain what they really think. 

Further help

If your child is being radicalised, it’s important to reach out for urgent support. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed by their opinions, or hope it’s something they will grow out of. However, taking action as early as possible is the best way you can help them.

  • If you’re worried that your child is in danger, about to join a terrorist organisation, or planning a criminal offence, immediately contact the police by calling 999.
  • The NSPCC has a detailed parent guide to protect children from radicalisation or you can call 0808 800 5000 to talk to an advisor.
  • If your child doesn’t feel confident speaking to you, they could contact ChildLine on 0800 1111. 

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