In the wake of a terror attack such as those in London and Manchester, it’s only natural for young people to be upset by the information they may be seeing online and on the news. This may lead to curiosity about the motives that lead to such extreme action and, one of the prominent places they will go searching for this information is online.
As we know young people can have access to a wide range of online content, some of which is not always produced with their best interest at heart. It is important that we, as professionals support them when they encounter upsetting news stories and provide them with the skills needed to seek out factually correct information and help them to deduce from this rationally. So what can you do to help the young people you support?
Give people time to talk about what has happened:
We cannot ignore events such as that which took place last week. However upsetting and controversial it can be to raise the topic, everyone will already have been talking among themselves and with families about what happened. If opinions are not allowed to be vocalised, discussed and debated in a safe space, rumours are born and ill judgements formed. The NSPCC has some great advice to help start a conversation with children about recent events.
Help young people to become critical thinkers:
The internet can be used by some as a platform to spread their own message and promote hidden agendas. Be aware of this and be sure to provide young people with the space they need to discuss what they may see.
Facilitate discussions around risk, talk about how to spot pervasive and inaccurate content and the ways in which propaganda and media can be misleading. Childnet, as part of its work within the UK Safer Internet Centre has created Trust Me, a great resource to help start these conversations and provide young people with the skills they need to make informed decisions and rational judgements about the content they view online.
Whilst the internet has many wonderful opportunities for young people, it also has content which can be upsetting, harmful or illegal. Most social networking sites have reporting routes for extremist content. Remember online material promoting terrorism or extremism can be reported to the Home Office anonymously here. You can also report any hate crime to True Vision.
Worried about a young person who seems vulnerable?
Give them the space to talk, try not to be judgemental and listen to what they have to say. Young people often want to explore issues, e.g. talking about politics or religion, this is a positive thing. Keep the lines of communication open and tackle the tricky questions together. If you still have concerns, speak to your designated safeguarding lead about what action to take.
Know where to turn for help:
Make sure young people are aware of what to do if they come across upsetting or extremist content online and ensure that you’re equipped to deal with this. Know what your responsibilities are under the Prevent Duty and where you can seek further advice and support. Refer them to Childline if they have been upset or targeted with any hateful content.