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Among our concerns during a pandemic when our country has all but shut down? Extremists using this time to amplify their messaging to reach more kids as they are stuck at home and spending more time online. Read on. Co-authored by @noraflanagan (1/25)
Kids will be online far more than they were. Assignments, connecting with peers, filling time. Many of us are also now spending far more time with our kids, so now is the time to check in and be vigilant. (2/25)
We know the most susceptible to radicalization struggle with belonging and identity, feel a deep lack of agency, and oversimplify global issues into black and white thinking (us vs. them). (3/25)
Right now kids are removed from their normal support structures, spending vast amounts of time at home, often alone online. Even with family present, kids may isolate. (4/25)
The world is tumultuous and uncertain. Kids have very little say about what is happening, and they are watching as parents also lose agency in their lives. Many kids now have one or more parents suddenly out of work. (5/25)
White nationalists, accelerationists, and other extremists will exploit this confusing time to amp up messaging online, trying to expand their reach and snag new recruits. (6/25)
Extremist and accelerationist rhetoric seeks to scapegoat & foretell societal collapse, offering a heroic pathway in hastening this collapse. It efficiently uses dark humor to express deep fears many kids feel but have no place to safely express and process. (7/25)
Some messaging includes ecofascist ideas, i.e. humans are the “real virus” and the root cause of the earth’s problems. This is a soft sell meant to desensitize people to the idea that eradicating humans is a valid goal. (8/25)
PARENTS: GET TO KNOW YOUR KIDS’ ONLINE SPACES. What games are they playing? Who do they interact with? What support platforms do they use? Steam, Twitch, Discord, Gab, Telegram, Signal, Wire, WhatsApp? (9/25)
What videos are they watching? Which YouTubers do they follow? Why? Do they comment or interact with comments? What are their current favorite TikTok videos? Do they create content? Do they have a Bitchute account? (10/25)
Parents with younger kids: ask if anyone has ever contacted them inside games like Roblox, Minecraft,or Fortnite. Reportedly members affiliated with the hate group Atomwaffen, whose members traffic in child pornography, have reached out to kids as young as 8 years old. (11/25)
What can we do? IDENTIFY MESSAGING. Empower kids to identify the messages used to market products and ideas. Work together to learn better how to identify disinformation campaigns. This impacts permanent behavior change far more than just info and guidelines. (12/25)
Hate group themes to watch for: stoking fear, scapegoating (Jews, the rich, the poor, Asians, etc.), talk of inevitable societal collapse, calls to hasten the collapse or destruction of society/government/families/institutions; life being essentially meaningless… (13/25)
Watch for anything framed as “us vs. them,” the idea that nothing we do matters, desensitization to harming others (violent & child pornography, kill videos, harming animals), any idealization of mass shooters or famous killers, normalizing violence as a solution. (14/25)
TALK. The world is in upheaval right now. They know things are not normal. Develop daily check ins (conversation or via text) about how they are feeling. If they don’t seem to want to talk, find new ways to try. (15/25)
LISTEN. Hear them, and don’t try to have all the answers. Share your feelings. It’s okay to let your kids know that you are afraid and uncertain. You are making it okay for them to feel this way, too. (16/25)
PLAY. Now is a great time to share your kids’ worlds. Play outside. Play board games. Play video games with them. Even if you aren’t any good at video games, let them teach you. Be willing to meet them where they are: it demonstrates that you value them. (17/25)
Share videos with one another. Talk about them. Watch movies and shows together. Let them pick one, and then you pick one. Talk about them. Read together: novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, anything. Talk about them. (18/25)
Building and fortifying connection is deeply important. Injecting complexity and broadening the content of what they are consuming is a powerful antidote to the dark rabbit holes of the online world. (19/25)
PLAN. Talk about the dangers of group phone calls or video chats with people they do not know in person. Develop an action plan for what to do when children encounter problematic comments, content, or interactions online. (20/25)
Screenshot. Block & report. Follow up with your own report to the platform where this occurred. Report to law enforcement any direct and actionable threat. (21/25)
Ask your kid if there’s any other follow up they’d like from you. Don’t cut off their access; reward them for their honesty. Let your kid know they rock for being vigilant! (22/25)
Read this piece on white nationalism and social distancing: rollingstone.com/culture/cultur… (23/25)
Read this piece on how extremists are capitalizing on the COVID-19 crisis: vice.com/en_us/article/… (24/25)
Subscribe to @nickmartin’s excellent newsletter on extremist activity to stay informed about what is currently happening: informant.news (25/25)
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