Radicalisation is when someone starts to believe or support extreme views, and in some cases, then participates in terrorist groups or acts.
It can be motivated by a range of factors, including ideologies, religious beliefs, political beliefs and prejudices against particular groups of people.
People may be radicalised in many different ways, and over different time frames from as little as a few days or hours, or it may take several years.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can be radicalised, but factors such as being easily influenced and impressionable make children and young people particularly vulnerable.
Children who are at risk of radicalisation may have low self-esteem or be victims of bullying or discrimination. They may feel:
- isolated and lonely or wanting to belong
- unhappy about themselves and what others might think of them
- embarrassed or judged about their culture, gender, religion or race
- stressed or depressed
- fed up of being bullied or treated badly by other people or by society
- angry at other people or the government
- confused about what they are doing
- pressured to stand up for other people who are being oppressed
How does it happen?
Radicalisation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process, so young people who are affected may not realise what’s happening.
People can be radicalised by family members or friends, through direct contact with extremist groups, or through the internet. Extremist messages or membership of an extremist group can offer a sense of purpose, community and identity which may be appealing, especially if someone is experiencing challenges in their life.
Teenagers can be at greater risk because they are more independent, exploring new things and pushing boundaries as they grow and discover more about their identity, faith and sense of belonging.
Extremist groups often target young people via the internet and social media.
The process may involve:
- being groomed online or in person
- exploitation, including sexual exploitation
- psychological manipulation
- exposure to violent material and other inappropriate information
- the risk of physical harm or death through extremist acts
What are the signs?
It can be hard to know when extreme views become something dangerous, and the signs of radicalisation aren’t always obvious.
There is no specific profile for 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.
Radicalisation can be difficult to spot, but signs that could indicate a child is being radicalised include:
- a change in behaviour
- changing their circle of friends
- isolating themselves from family and friends
- talking as if from a scripted speech
- unwillingness or inability to discuss their views
- a sudden disrespectful attitude towards others
- increased levels of anger
- increased secretiveness, especially around internet use
- accessing extremist material online
- using extremist or hate terms to exclude others or incite violence
- writing or creating artwork promoting violent extremist messages
However, these signs don’t necessarily mean a child is being radicalised – sometimes it may be normal teenage behaviour or a sign that something else is wrong. If you notice any change in a child’s behaviour and you’re worried, you can call Devon’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub 0345 155 1071.
What can I do?
We all have a role in ensuring that our communities remain safe.
You can make a difference by sharing any concerns you may have about individuals or groups you meet at work, socially or in any other context.
Strong evidence shows that an intervention can stop someone becoming a terrorist or supporting violent extremism.
If you believe someone is at risk of radicalisation you can help them get support and prevent them becoming involved in terrorism and potentially violent activities by raising your concerns via the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you see it, suspect it – report it!
The government has developed a process called ‘Prevent’ to help people who have been identified as being potentially vulnerable to radicalisation or extremism. Channel is part of this process, and is means of providing practical support to people at risk of being drawn towards terrorism or violent extremism. Partners include local authorities, healthcare providers, the police and members of the community, who work together to support individuals vulnerable to radicalisation and provide tailored safeguarding measures to support their needs. A range of options are available including mentoring, welfare support and access to key services.
Early detection and referral is important, offering the best chance of stopping people from being drawn into terrorism.
It is important to note that extremism itself is not illegal and that those referred to Prevent will not be automatically criminalised.
If you suspect that someone is about to put themselves in danger by travelling to join a terrorist organisation, or appears involved in plans to commit a criminal offence, please inform the police immediately by calling 999.
You can find out more about helping identify and prevent radicalisation on the Safer Devon website.