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Radicalisation & Extremism

What is child radicalisation and extremism? 

Radicalisation is when someone starts to believe or support extreme views, and in some cases, then participates in terrorist groups or acts. 

It can be motivated by a range of factors, including ideologies, religious beliefs, political beliefs and prejudices against particular groups of people. 

People may be radicalised in many different ways, and over different time frames from as little as a few days or hours, or it may take several years. 


Spotting the signs 

Radicalisation can be really difficult to spot. Signs that may indicate a child is being radicalised include: 

  • isolating themselves from family and friends 
  • talking as if from a scripted speech 
  • unwillingness or inability to discuss their views 
  • a sudden disrespectful attitude towards others 
  • increased levels of anger 
  • increased secretiveness, especially around internet use. 

Children who are at risk of radicalisation may have low self-esteem, or be victims of bullying or discrimination. Extremists might target them and tell them they can be part of something special, later brainwashing them into cutting themselves off from their friends and family. 

However, these signs don’t necessarily mean a child is being radicalised – it may be normal teenage behaviour or a sign that something else is wrong. 


How does it happen? 

Radicalisation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process, so young people who are affected may not realise what’s happening. 

People can be radicalised by family members or friends, through direct contact with extremist groups, or through the internet. Extremist messages or membership of an extremist group can offer a sense of purpose, community and identity which may be appealing, especially if someone is experiencing challenges in their life. 

Teenagers can be at greater risk because they are more independent, exploring new things and pushing boundaries as they grow and discover more about their identity, faith and sense of belonging. 

Extremist groups often target young people via the internet and social media. 

The process may involve: 

  • being groomed online or in person 
  • exploitation, including sexual exploitation 
  • psychological manipulation 
  • exposure to violent material and other inappropriate information 
  • the risk of physical harm or death through extremist acts 



Report a concern with a child 

The safety and welfare of children – or child protection – is everybody’s business.​​​​ 

You could be a neighbour, friend, parent, relative, child-minder, teacher, doctor or working for any organisation which has contact with children and young people. 

In an emergency please dial 999​. 

Otherwise you can contact the Child Protection Team: 

Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) – 01708 433222 

Out of hours/weekends – 01708 433999​ 

Make a referral online 

Or use the document based referral form