Extremism & Radicalisation

Terrorism and Extremism

Terrorism and extremism are sometimes used interchangeably. Both pose a threat to students but they have very distinct definitions.

Terrorism is an action or threat designed to influence the government or intimidate the public. Its purpose is to advance a political, religious or ideological cause. The current UK definition of terrorism is given in the Terrorism Act 2006.

In the UK we define terrorism as a violent action that:

  • Endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action
  • Involves serious violence against a person
  • Causes serious damage to property
  • Creates a serious risk to the public’s health and safety
  • Interferes with or seriously disrupts an electronic system

But how does terrorism differ from extremism? The Counter Extremism Strategy 2015 says: “Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect and tolerance for different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist.”

It’s important to remember that not all extremist groups, whether Islamist, far-right or other, will commit terrorist or violent acts. However, some groups pose particular threats, both online and offline.

Protecting your children from extremism

  1. How do I talk to my child about extremism?

It’s never easy to start a serious conversation with a child. Choose a place your child feels at ease and make it a time when you’re unlikely to be interrupted. A good time to raise the subject is when it’s relevant, perhaps when you both see something on TV about extremism.


  • Make the conversation relevant
  • Ask their opinion
  • Find out how much they know about the subject
  • Take care to listen
  • Ask them questions that don’t result in a yes or no answer
  • Let them talk without interrupting
  • Encourage them to ask questions
  • Talk about your own views on extremism


  1. How can I keep my child safe from extremism online?

Talk to your child about online safety, explain the dangers and make sure their social media accounts are secure. Install parental controls so you can monitor what they access. The NSPCC has produced the following suggestions to help keep your child safe.

  • Speak with your child about what they do online
  • Ask them to show you some of their favourite sites
  • Show an interest in their online friends
  • Ask them how they decide who to be friends with
  • Try to get them to friend you online as well
  • Agree the amount of time they spend online and the sites they visit
  • Think about installing parental controls on their devices
  • Raise the issue of inappropriate content and if they’ve seen any
  • Make sure they know how to report abuse online


  1. What are the online warning signs of radicalisation?

There is no single route to radicalisation. It can happen over a long period of time or is triggered by a specific incident or news item. The behaviours listed here are intended as a guide to help you identify possible radicalisation


Online behaviour

  • Accessing extremist online content
  • Sympathetic to extremist ideologies and groups
  • Joining or trying to join an extremist organisation
  • Changing online identity


  1. What are the behavioural signs of radicalisation?

It can be hard to differentiate between normal teenage behaviour and attitudes that indicate your child may have been exposed to radicalising influences. You know your child better than anyone, so trust your instinct if something feels wrong.

Outward appearance

  • Not listening to other points of view
  • Abusive towards people who are different
  • Embracing conspiracy theories
  • Feeling persecuted
  • Changing friends and appearance
  • Converting to a new religion
  • Being secretive of movements
  • Increasingly argumentative
  • Distancing themselves from old friends
  • No longer doing things they used to enjoy


  1. What should I do if I think my child is being radicalised?

If you are worried your child is being radicalised you have a number of options. Talking to your child is a good way to gauge if

your instincts are correct. If you prefer to share your concerns with someone else first, there are a number of people and

organisations you can turn to for advice.


  • Speak to your child’s teachers, a friend or a family member. Have they noticed anything out of the ordinary?
  • The safeguarding lead at your child’s school can advise you on the best approach
  • Your local police or council can provide advice on how to protect your child. Speaking to the police will not get your child into trouble if no crime has been committed


If you think someone is in immediate danger, or if you see or hear something that may be terrorist-related:

  • call 999
  • or the confidential Anti-Terrorism Hotline on 0800 789 321



  1. What can I do to protect my child from extremist influences?

It’s important to talk to your child about extremism and radicalisation. Giving your child the facts will help them

challenge extremist arguments. Being honest with your child and talking to them on a regular basis about extremism and radicalisation is the best way to help keep them safe. Remember your child’s safety extends to their online activity too


Extremist groups also use the internet and social media to spread their ideology. Teach your children to understand just because something appears on a website doesn’t mean it’s factually correct.

  • Talk to your child about staying safe online
  • Keep an eye on the sites your child is visiting
  • Use parental controls on browsers, games and social media to filter or monitor what your child can see


  1. Is my child vulnerable to radicalisation?

The process of radicalisation is different for each child but there are some factors which can lead to young people becoming radicalised.

Personal vulnerabilities or local factors can make a young person more susceptible to extremist messages.

Vulnerabilities may include:

  • sense of not belonging
  • behavioural problems
  • issues at home
  • lack of self-esteem
  • criminal activity
  • being involved with gangs


Children don’t need to meet people face-to-face to fall for their extremist beliefs. The internet is increasingly being

used by extremist groups to radicalise young people.


  1. What is Channel?

Channel is a multi-agency, voluntary programme which safeguards people identified as being vulnerable to

radicalisation. A referral can come from anyone who is concerned about a person they think is at risk. It is not a criminal sanction and will not affect a person’s criminal record.


Many types of support are available as part of the Channel programme, addressing educational, vocational, mental

health and other vulnerabilities.




Important contacts

Department for Education counter-extremism helpline: 020 7340 7264




Anti-Terrorism Hotline: 0800 789 321

Childline: 0800 1111


More information and support organisations can be found at www.educateagainsthate.com

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