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Fighting Extremism Online: New resources help parents combat radicalization of youth on the web

New tools to help parents and other caregivers protect vulnerable young people from being radicalized by extremist propaganda online were released this week by the Southern Poverty Law Center and American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL).

The organizations released the new web resources in addition to updates to their 2020 guide, Building Resilience & Confronting Risk in the COVID-19 Era: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization. The resources are specifically tailored for educators, counselors, coaches and mentors. 
“Young people are being targeted online by extremists looking to exploit and radicalize them,” said Lydia Bates, senior research analyst for the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “This is why it was critical for us to not only provide resources for parents and caregivers but ensure they are as effective as possible.” 

In an impact study of 755 adults, the two organizations found that just seven minutes with the guide can dramatically improve a user’s knowledge of extremism and understanding of youth radicalization. Adults who spent more time reading the guide felt better equipped to take immediate action to prevent children from being radicalized online.
Following last year’s release of the Building Resilience & Confronting Risk in the COVID-19 Era: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization, the SPLC and PERIL conducted an impact study and held 13 focus groups with educators, school counselors, social workers, coaches, mentors and youth group leaders. The findings led to the development of the SPLC and PERIL's newly published resources.
“Communities are looking for resources that not only help them recognize risks, but also build resilience to extremism,” said PERIL Director and Professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss. “Our goal is to inform and empower all adults with the tools to recognize signs of extremist radicalization and feel equipped to intervene with a young person in effective ways.”
The new resources include information about the key vulnerabilities that make young people more susceptible to radicalization, how to recognize the warning signs of radicalization, what drives online radicalization, and how to engage a radicalized child or young adult. The new resources also include materials for parents and caregivers about how to get help and support.

Illustration by Claudia Whitaker