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Raising awareness of how radicalization happens for greater individual safety and country security
HEADS-UP is an EU-funded program that will develop various educational tools and resources to inform and enlighten teachers and front line workers dealing with young adults in all educational settings and adults at risk of online threats and radicalisation.
What are the issues?
The internet is now the leading entertainment and research platform having taken over from conventional media forms such as TV, newspapers, books and magazines. Most people carry a smart phone and have access to tablets or laptops and, therefore, have constant online access. Social media platforms are easy to use, free and fast, enabling individuals and organisations to reach into every home and to target their messages to millions.
This virtual cosmos provides unlimited opportunities for sexual predators, political and quasi-religious fanatics, and Internet trolls intent on grooming young people who are most often the primary target audience.
Extremist organisations have developed calculated and sophisticated strategies to radicalise, recruit and even train people through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and online gaming – there is a radicalised version of Grand Theft Auto.
There is a perception that those at risk of radicalisation are vulnerable, poorly educated and disadvantaged young people but research has found that the demographics in relation to religion, age, sex, education and financial backgrounds vary.
What has been found is that many become radicalized in response to emotive messages and visuals and through frustration or outrage at perceived injustice or inequality. Potential candidates for recruitment and radicalisation often make themselves known by ‘liking’ a particular post, donating to a cause, downloading information or even searching a particular topic.
Terrorist organisations are experts in engaging with these sympathisers by developing a relationship, often ‘love bombing’ the individual with positive and encouraging messages and fostering a sense of belonging and community. Like marketing companies, these organisations will research profiles, identifying age, background and interests then use the information to befriend and manipulate the targeted person.
Who will benefit?
These are all issues that front line educators and youth workers are expected to address with their target groups. Young adults need support in any type of education but the vast and ever developing online world poses many challenges and potential dangers.
How will we help?
HEADS-UP wants to build the skills of front line workers through in-service training and a series of simulated videos that explicitly demonstrate those online threats. This practical, user friendly set of resources will enable educators to support their target groups more effectively by teaching them how to identify and address potential radicalisation and grooming tactics.