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15 Feb 2017

Young boy of 10 found to be at risk of Radicalisation

Hitting the headlines this week is the story of a 10 year old boy who just over a year ago was investigated and identified by the Government’s Prevent programme, as being at risk of Radicalisation.

The story describes how suspicions were raised when the young boy, whose identity has never been revealed, stood up in front of his primary school classroom in West London, UK, and declared his support of the so-called Islamic State.

A declaration that led to a series of interventions from his teachers, child services and the Government’s Prevent team. Upon investigation it becomes apparent that Haaruun, as the young boy is referred to, began his interest in ISIS after seeing the news of the Paris Attacks on the TV.

Curious, Haaruun went straight onto the internet at home to research and in no time came across brutal videos containing graphic scenes of execution, some of which were being carried out by young boys of the same age.

Explaining his story Haaruun told the BBC how he’d not only visit violent websites at the weekend when everyone else was outside playing, but that he would also be ‘searching up’ in the classroom with other pupils.

When we were doing some research, a boy searched up ISIS and he went on the video. I said 'close the tab' and the teacher came and he heard something and he said 'What was that' - and they all said 'Nothing’.

I knew what I was looking at was bad, but then it wasn't only me that was doing it. It was unfair. Other people got away with it.

Further investigation into Haaruun’s case revealed he was also a subject of bullying, with pupils branding him as a ‘terrorist’, something which Prevent experts suggest played a significant factor in isolating him and fuelling his interest in ISIS.

Extremists target these types of individuals and brainwash them into thinking they can be part of something special, leading to them eventually cutting off from their family and friends.

After almost a year of work, the Prevent team managed to successfully teach Haaruun about the impact and repercussions of Radicalisation, resulting in him now knowing the danger he could have gotten himself into and the actions he should avoid in the future.

What can schools do to minimise these risks?

Stories such as these offer a real warning, reminding us that these risks still very much impose themselves not only on adults, but also children of all ages.

In Haaruun’s case, sharing his thoughts out loud probably saved his life. The fact that he was able to access websites containing such extreme violence without the school knowing of his activity is a very scary thought.

How many other 10 year olds out there are perhaps doing the very same thing yet nobody knows about it? However unnecessary some may find it, children as young as Haaruun need to be educated about Radicalisation in order to understand the risks and dangers which surround them as vulnerable, young individuals.

Schools must provide children and young people with a ‘safe space’, where they can learn about the risks associated with terrorism and develop the knowledge and skills needed to be able to challenge extremist arguments.

Implementing the right tools to protect

Schools now have an obligation to ensure they have appropriate web filtering and monitoring in place, in order to fulfill their duty of care and safeguard their students against any online threats and harmful content.

It is essential for staff to to be able to identify children who may be vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation, therefore having a robust solution in place which can identify such risks is paramount.

Web filtering from Smoothwall has been designed to help schools meet their obligations around the Prevent Duty and new Keeping Children Safe in Education guidelines.

Using Real-Time content aware analysis, our solution focuses on web page content instead of URLs, allowing sites to be classified and filtered upon more accurately, alerting you of any instances where, for instance, an individual has visited a web page containing extremist material.

Our monitoring solution, Visigo, provides the most advanced on-device monitoring that is moderated by vast AI technology and human specialists.

Building an up to the minute profile of activity per individual allows the risk and context of a situation to be accurately analysed, resulting in schools being notified of any high risk alerts.

If you are concerned about somebody who may be at risk of Radicalisation, the NSPCC have some advice on how to spot the signs and get the support you need.

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