Where young people see extremist content
It is unfortunately extremely easy to access extremist online communities, particularly on smaller social media platforms which have poor safety policies.
Alternatively, young people may find out about these forums through the use of mainstream social media platforms, where people often post links to groups or networks. While mainstream platforms typically have settings for more child-friendly modes, it won’t always hide violent or graphic content.
Gaming forums can also play a role in radicalisation. For example, servers on platforms such as Discord are used as socialisation spaces for extremists.
Why do young people join extremist networks?
Young people may get involved in extremist networks for various reasons, not all of which are linked to ideology.
They might seek counter-culture or rebellion, look for a social space which accepts them due to in-person social isolation, or may even stumble across extremist communities by accident. For example, some platforms such as X (formerly Twitter) or TikTok use ‘algorithmic amplification’, which suggests similar accounts to those where a user spends a lot of time, which may result in serving them new extremist networks.
Many extremist forums are not just a space to post, but form a whole community of support, sharing jokes or playing games. Some have very strong meme cultures, where racism is gamified and seen as a form of dark humour. In these forums, older individuals sometimes seek to recruit young people to extremist causes.
Increasingly, young people are also able to access extremist ideas and activities without any involvement from adults. Additionally, there are more and more cases of children forming their own extremist networks or engaging with their peers over harmful causes, although this is still relatively rare.