Police join forces with Netmums to prevent children being groomed as terrorists in Milton Keynes
Parents need to know how to spot the warning signs, say officers.
Thames Valley Police have announced a partnership with Netmums, a popular parental advice forum, to help combat children being groomed as terrorists.
Police say that the number of children being arrested for terrorism offences is increasing at an "unprecedented rate" and they link the rise to the accessibility of the internet.
A Netmums survey revealed that only 28% of parents surveyed knew how to spot signs of radicalisation in their children,
The Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) team for Bucks will now be publishing information and resource tools on Netmums to help educate parents about the dangers of radicalisation.
This will involve helping people identify signs of grooming and other online harm such as sexual exploitation or cyber-bullying.
The UK’s Prevent and terrorism arrest data shows that children under the age of 18 made up 13% of all terrorism arrests in the year to 31 March 2021, nearly trebling 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, 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.
One major factor the police identified was the increasing prevalence of young people in the extreme right wing terrorism space. Police say this is a growing concern as children are being targeted and radicalised by right wing extremists online.
Of those 21 children arrested for terrorism offences in the last financial year, 15 of them were linked to extreme right wing terrorism. Police link this trend to 2015, in that year 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%.
Police believe by acting early, this trend can be stopped. A spokesperson for the Thames Valley Police 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 save them before it is too late."
“The trends we are seeing in our data are incredibly concerning,” said Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, CTP’s National Coordinator for Prevent
“We must do more as a society to protect children from this threat and CTP want 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.
“I am worried about what we are seeing, but I am also hopeful that we can do something to stop it.
“Not all children are vulnerable, but some are, and all parents should be aware of the dangers so they can help protect their child if necessary.
"That requires parents, friends and family to help us by talking to their children about what they view online, and acting early to share their concerns and seeking support if they fear someone they know and love is in danger of being radicalised.
“Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is – action which won’t ruin their lives but may well save them. It is vital to act early.”
Associate editor of Netmums, Wendy Golledge, said: “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.”
Netmums will host a sponsored ‘drop in clinic’ where parents can ask a Prevent Officer questions and seek advice if they have concerns.
For more information visit https://www.netmums.com/act-early .