What is fake news, extremism and radicalisation?

Fake news is based on propaganda, half-truths and, often, downright lies. Fake news is rarely harmless as it allows for plausible lies to pass as the truth. Children can be particularly susceptible to this as they don’t always have the experience to tell the difference. Many large platforms such as Facebook, Google and Wikipedia are starting to flag this type of content with a warning.

However, we need to help children become more alert to the fact that not everything they see online is true. We can do that by getting children to ask themselves:

  • Does the story sound believable?
  • Do other sites have the same facts and figures?
  • Has it been reported on the radio, TV and in more than one reputable newspaper?
  • Does the photo or video look normal?
  • Is some of the text written in capitals or feature lots of exclamation marks – usually a sign of sensationalism?
  • Does the website have an About Us or a Contact section?
  • Does it have a standard address such as .org, co.uk or .com? BBC Bitesize has produced a video on talking to your children about fake news that you might find helpful.

Protecting children from radicalisation

While not common, there are negative influencers who use the internet to spread their extreme views and ideas. When a child starts to support or be involved in them, then this is called radicalisation.

Online radicalisation can be hard to spot as it is a complex issue. There are some possible signs to look for but bear in mind that most of these are also part of normal teenager behaviour:

  • Exploring new and unusual websites, chat forums and platforms
  • Speaking with new friends or being secretive about chats during online gaming or in forums
  • A strong desire to seek new meaning, identity and purpose
  • Using language you wouldn’t expect them to know
  • Watching, sharing or creating films online linked to religious, political or racial hate.

If you’re concerned, then talk to your child about what they’re viewing, who they are speaking to and how they’re feeling. If, after this, you’re still concerned then we advise that you speak with the Dedicated Safeguarding Lead at your child’s school. They will know your child and have had extra training to know how pick up on concerning behaviour. They can talk through your concerns, give advice and get extra support should you need it. The NSPCC has produced some guidance on protecting children from radicalisation that you may find helpful.