Jacksonville, Florida – Teenage terrorism inspired by social media is on the rise according to local FBI Agents, and It’s just one of the reasons why the federal agency is hosting an event to keep kids safe from radicalization and other online influences.
FBI agents say radicalization online isn’t necessarily a new threat but just how often it’s happening is alarming. We spoke with a social media expert who offered advice every parent needs to hear.
“Those predators online are studying your children. They’re studying our children, they’re studying their behaviors, they’re studying what makes them happy, what makes them sad, and they understand how to communicate properly to get the right results,” Social Media Expert, Dwann Holmes, said.
It’s a chilling reality that’s lurking on almost every social media site according to law enforcement. The threat of online radicalization, which is when someone is introduced to an ideological belief or message, that is justified by violence or hate.
“These are predators who are targeting children trying to push their extremist views on them, and then motivating those children to commit violent acts to further their extremist views and it’s concerning for us because we are seeing the hate speech online,” FBI Public Affairs Officer, Amanda Videll, said.
Videll says federal investigators are tracking a dramatic increase in hate speech online, targeting people because of their race, ancestry, religion, or sexual orientation. Along with that hate speech, Videll says extremists are using social media to introduce kids to harmful ideas.
“People are taking advantage of youth that don’t have that core value system in place yet, they are very vulnerable and may be willing to commit violent acts based on the views that they hold,” Videll said.
Experts say signs of radicalization aren’t always obvious, but there are some warning signs:
“I think we must remember, whereas, when we grew up, we were latchkey kids. Today, kids are being raised, literally, by the internet and by social media,” Holmes said.
Holmes says parents should be closely monitoring and moderating their child’s online behavior, and be aware of the most common time of the day, extremists are looking for easily influenced kids and teenagers.
“I think anyone who is a specialist online knows that there are certain times that our pages are more frequented, and there are certain times that children are online unmonitored, and that tends to be as soon as they get out of school when their parents are not around. And so if you understand that, I think it’s really important for parents to communicate with their children,” Holmes said.
The FBI Is hosting the Be Smart with Your Kids Smart Phone Event along with Duval County Schools Parent Academy.
It’s for parents, students and educators on Thursday, Nov. 2, at James Weldon Johnson College Prep Middle School. The event is from 6:30 until 8 in the evening and is free and open to the public.