Save the Children: Extremist groups recruit young people through social media and play

Extremist movements are actively seeking to recruit young people to Finland online, says a report published by Save the Children, the Finnish branch of Save the Children, on Wednesday.

Research, part of the organization’s state-funded RadicalWeb project, shows that extremists use many means to attract young people.

These include social media, online messaging, video game platforms, dark network forums and meetings. According to the report, such movements seek to increase their attractiveness through humor, conspiracy theories, and non-sexual caring.

Extremist movements often have specific action plans aimed at recruiting young people using different methods and tactics. Extreme thinking is especially evident in online communication and social media, but recruitment also takes place to some extent through direct contacts, such as a circle of friends or hobbies.

However, each radicalization process is unique, according to the RadicalWeb project manager Annukka Kurki.

"Young people are a good target for propaganda by extremists and terrorist groups, as they are vulnerable to extremism and other adverse effects due to their sensitive stage of development. Extreme movements are highly innovative in their recruitment," Kurki said in a statement on Wednesday.

Supo: Violent radicalization increases

According to the Security and Intelligence Service (Supo), the threat of violent radicalization in Finland is minimal compared to many other countries. However, violent radicalization and related violent activities have also increased in Finland in recent years, and this is also reflected in crime statistics, Save the Children states in its report.

The radicalization of young people can be difficult to identify and distinguish from other behaviors related to their age or difficult life situations. Risk factors for the development of extremism can be caused by exclusion, one-sided vision and disappointment in democracy and political activity.

According to the organization, factors that can protect young people include social coping skills, independence, family support, a sense of inclusion, religious awareness, and the strengthening of democratic citizenship.

These can increase a young person’s mental recovery and resilience. The NGO says parents and professionals working with young people have an important role to play here.

"By strengthening social relations, the experience of inclusion and a sense of belonging, young people can be protected from radicalization Veera Tuomala, Project Planner, RadicalWeb.

Warning signs

Possible warning signs of the radicalization of youth may include changes in behavior, opinions, or dress, as well as the opposite of social order and the salvation of online propaganda.

A parent, guardian, or other adult who notices such signs should find out on what platforms the young person is online and help him or her identify the hate speech. They can also suggest how to influence decision-making through peaceful means.

Providing time and support can be crucial to a young person’s life, the organization says.

"Make sure the conversation is as calm and neutral as possible. An open, appreciative, understanding, compassionate and constructive dialogue is key. In contrast, questioning, belittling, condemning, overreacting and prosecuting should be avoided," the report says.

The report is based on data collected from research and reports, data collection from the Save the Children network and expert interviews. The RadicalWeb project is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Source: The Nordic Page


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