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Keeping children safe from radicalisation and extremism (Prevent)

Adult offering support
  • Date published:

  • Author: alexmantle

Prevent is a safeguarding program set up by the government to protect people who might be exposed to radical views, such as the support of extremist ideas or terrorism.

It aims to prevent people from becoming terrorists by supporting children and adults. Anyone can be influenced or exploited by extremist groups.

It strives to tackle all forms of terrorism and threats to national security.

What is terrorism?

Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

Prevent also strives to stop people adopting extremist views or supporting acts of terrorism.

Extremist groups might have an online presence and could try to befriend people using a process known as radicalisation.


Radicalisation is where extremist groups try to befriend people including children in order to persuade them to adopt their extreme political or ideological views.

Radicalisation makes those at risk more likely to support terrorism and violent acts of extremism, and possibly even commit criminal acts themselves. Radicalisation can happen when people are exposed to violent ideological propaganda or recruited in person via extremist networks.

What are the signs of radicalisation?

Signs that someone might be being radicalised include:

  • Being influenced/controlled by a group
  • An obsessive/angry desire for ‘change’ or something to be done
  • Spending an increasing amount of time online and sharing extreme views on social media
  • Looking to blame other groups or communities for problems

There are certain reasons why a person can become more at risk of being radicalised, these include:

  • Personal crisis (such as stress or trauma, which extremists can use to exploit people)
  • Mental health issues (extremists can look to capitalise on any mental health instability)
  • Need for identity, meaning and belonging
  • Desire for status/need to dominate or be in charge

Accessing support

If your child or someone you know is showing any of the signs or behaviours outlined above, or if something doesn’t seem right, use your instincts to direct them to the right support.

You will never waste police time by contacting them with these concerns and acting as early as possible is important. If you are worried about your child’s behaviour or views, speak to a Prevent officer as soon as possible by calling 0800 011 3764. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 999.

If you’re deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, a police non-emergency number is available as a text phone service on 18001 101.

Prevent officers are specially trained to understand targeted people and the reasons for their radical views, their purpose is to get people back on the right track and move them away from extremism.

Watch this video that highlights the work of prevent officers.

This handbook by Families Against Extremism explains how to have a difficult conversation with your child if they have adopted extreme views.

How can I protect my child?

This can be a difficult subject to approach with your child, and there is no right or wrong time to talk to them about radicalisation. Before you do so, consider their age and their access to online content. Try to discuss topics in a subtle way, for example by commenting on the news and asking for their opinions.

If your child is using the internet independently, no matter their age, make sure they know how to keep safe online.

It is important that you ask your child to show you how they spend their time on the internet, you can do this by asking for pointers on how to use the internet and different apps.

The more involved you are in their online life, the better you will understand their online activity and risk of being exposed to radicalised views. You can ask them about specific websites they frequently visit or people they speak to and how they know them.

Useful links – Radicalisation

Let’s Talk About It – What is Prevent?