As part of an anti-extremism drive, child protection officials in the United Kingdom have released a list of signs that are “specific to radicalization” among young adults — an effort that could have been quite helpful if it did not include everything angsty teenagers do while going through their rebellious phase.
Camden Safeguarding Children Board, which is a statutory organization overseen by the area’s local council to safeguard children in the borough, recently issued a leaflet warning parents that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies” is a sign “specific to radicalization.”
Apparently, if young people are taking issue with the government policies and showing mistrust of mainstream media reports, there is a possibility that terrorists might be grooming them. Other apparent hints include youngsters changing friendship groups or styles of dress, secretive behavior and switching computer screens when adults approach — which is definitely not something that every normal teenagers typically does, right?
“This leaflet aims to help parents and carers recognize when their child may be at risk from radicalization and where to get help if they are worried,” the material explains.
Unsurprisingly, parents are not too happy with the signs listed in the leaflet either. While strict counter-terrorism measures are needed to tackle the increasing incidents of extremism, it seems like the inner-city safeguard board has crossed that line into paranoia.
“Children should be encouraged to take an interest in politics and think critically about what they see in the media, not deemed suspect for so doing,” said Bella Sankey, policy director at the campaign group Liberty, criticizing the leaflet. “Clumsy laws and policies that encourage suspicion in family homes will alienate ordinary teenagers and may further marginalize those genuinely at risk. If we want to keep our children away from violent extremism, we must include them in open discussion and teach human rights values, not police democratic concerns about government policy.”
Although most of the “radicalization signs” mentioned by the board could be described as general teenage behavior, there are a few things that might actually help parents to notice unhealthy behavior in their kids.
“The following signs are more specific to radicalization: Owning mobile phones or devices you haven’t given them, showing sympathy for extremist causes, advocating extremist messages, glorifying violence [and] accessing extremist literature and imagery,” the leaflet describes.
The document also urges worried parents to contact the police or the local area's anti-extremism coordinator.