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  • Writer's pictureSarah - Mom of a Former

A Mom's View Of Online Activity

Looking at the impact of how social media can negatively influence young people and possibly lead them down the path of extremism, made me really reflect on my own experiences as a parent who has had a son involved in extremism..

We all know that social media plays a huge part in society today, from education to recreation, from health to employment. We live in a world in which we cannot live without the technology that has been developed.

Today we see the latest trends on platforms such as TikTok which can easily sell out products in minutes. 

Instead of using CDs, today most of us create and listen to playlists. We download maps on our phones to navigate for us.

We can even monitor our heartbeat, steps and general health all via our watches.

So technology cannot be avoided and often can make the world we live in better, but there is a downside and often social media can lead people to places, no-one should go.

Ever since the pandemic, many friendships are much more reliant on technology, busy lives mean we text or Snapchat instead of calling or visiting.

So with that in mind, I will look to answer the question often asked on why I think young people are influenced by social media, but I'm also really curious as to your thoughts, the viewers reading this article today. Please send us an email and your thoughts or why not do an article about this yourself and email us via our central email listed below.

So what do I think? Well, I believe that young people do not understand the impact that social media can have on adults let alone themselves.

Being behind a keyboard and not face to face, especially when they are being a sock account or profile allows individuals to be whoever they want to be and allows them a bravado that they may lack in real life.

Social media can also act as an outlet for issues that may exist in their real life.

By saying and doing things they wouldn't do in real life normally and they may receive numerous likes and even notoriety from others.

It might give young people the confidence that they normally lack an give a false sense of security.

It could be an outlet for the troubles and trauma they they they are going through because some people when they are in a dark place will hit out at others.

Talk to people, seeking answers, I often talk to young people as a mentor who seeks status, and worth online, they want to be liked by their friends and many young people desperately seek acceptance.

For many, likes are as important as money.

So how can young people be influenced online? Well like most of us, it starts with Ideas, and interests, which people follow and then things can change very quickly, as people who seek to exploit people's concerns, worries or needs, step in to offer simple answers, with the aim of building influence and gaining recruits.

With various famous faces prevalent on social media, pushing ERW narratives, this makes things more acceptable, with young people thinking - well if they can do it!! so can I and this is how the slippery road into extremism can open.

I will not go into the atrocities that are happening around the world at the moment but I do believe that fear and a lack of understanding can mislead not just young people but many others as well. 

Researching online can easily lead people down the wrong path, with some search engines leading to some very troublesome and terrifying places online. 

So how do we resolve this?

Well, it's not going to be easy and this article is just the start of us having an open, honest and frank discussion about the internet and social media influence and usage.

Wanting to look into this deeper, we will look at what it is like to be active online, influenced by others and sucked into a dangerous world, where people say they care, but they dont, often leaving activists in prisons with no support or contact.

To start the discussion, I would like to suggest a few things can could help.

We need to start by empowering our children, and letting them know that it is ok to be different.

We need to Inform them that people should like them for who they are and not what they can do.

We, society, need to teach them right from wrong and to be respectful of others.

We need to look at online safety, what it is, how people are not always who they say they are and have honest and open conversations, which are essential and should begin from a very early age.

We also need to encourage children to ask questions, no matter how hard or difficult they may be and don't worry if you don't feel equipt to answer them, because it is possible to find someone else, suitable and that you can trust that can have discussions with young people and offer alternaternive answers and explanations based on fact, not hearsay.

As we move forward and have difficult conversations then every conversation we have is raising awareness and long-term, education is key.

Today, many of our young children are more vulnerable now than they have ever been and it does not matter how street-wise or intelligent they might be,  we must never underestimate the power and the manipulative tactics of the ERW (Extreme Right-Wing) and other extremists to groom our young people into their worlds of hate and fear.

Once alone, I felt I had no voice and no support, but today i know there is support out there from Prevent, to ACT Early or Exit Hate who offer support from a lived experience perspective.

Together we need to support, not judge young people who succumb to extremist ideas. Because if we don't and show we can listen and do care, then we will lose thousands of young people to the extremists and I for one, as a mother of a son, whom I once nearly lost to extremists, will never allow this to happen.

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