Internet As an Avenue of Children Radicalization | Citizen Support Mechanism

There are many things Kenyans could speak about 2020. Some would say it’s the year Nairobi changed to become a metropolitan instead of a county, others would say it’s the year that Kenya had its first impeachment (that of Ferdinand Waititu- former Kiambu Governor) while others will mention the ‘plague of locusts’ but one thing the entire world will remember is COVID-19 the disease that has brought the world to its knees and forced everyone to stay home.

While many things can be said about staying home, it is interesting to see education transform from a classroom to a screen. As much as we would like to consider this a technological advancement and part of embracing technology, it remains a major threat to our life post-COVID-19.

Terrorist groups, pedophiles, and other syndicates have taken advantage of the high numbers of online users streaming content and attending classes online through platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp.

They have moved their radicalization to this platform where they are luring children and other vulnerable populations using promises such as fame, money all in return for them to join them in their various activities.

Children are most vulnerable because while the law prohibits certain information to persons below 18years it is almost impossible to enforce this as they have learned ways of circumventing this through identity theft and via this they are being used as creators of content harmful to themselves and others. Nevertheless, they are taking advantage of the internet because it may act as an ‘echo chamber’ for extremist beliefs; in other words, the internet may provide a greater opportunity than offline interactions to confirm existing beliefs through an accelerated radicalization process without the need for any physical contact which amplifies the message since they can reach more people within a shorter period.

If you come across any signs of your child being radicalized or even self-radicalizing, it is necessary that you seek help from a counselor, reach out to us through our website, our twitter handle @CSMechanism & on Facebook- Citizen Support (@CitizenSupportMechanism).

As much as radicalization could be initiated by other people, there is also the threat of self-radicalization whereby based on the content that has been consumed whether by a movie or book one becomes interested in certain things thus pushing them into radicalizing themselves. During the internet era, even this has increased because of the ease of acquiring this information which for a long time was almost impossible to access. Below are trends which show an increase in the search for: ‘Al-Shabaab’ ‘suicide’, ‘how to commit suicide’ and ‘how to kill’

The above is a clear indication that since the onset of a partial lockdown, there has been increased search for terms that could be deemed as signs of self-radicalization.

Overcoming radicalization is not going to be an overnight success but requires a series of actions from different players but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.

Social media platforms have a provision to protect children online. One may report an account if they know it is being run by a person below 13 years. Also, the platforms provide for reporting mechanisms for inappropriate or offensive content that may include breach of privacy, child pornography, cyberbullying, harassment, grooming, or solicitation. The platforms often take down content that goes against their terms of use and community guidelines. In extreme cases, accounts are suspended or deactivated. The only challenge is that this does not prevent users from creating other pseudo accounts. Essentially the platforms play the role of the prosecutor, jury, and judge in so far as their terms of use are concerned. In the absence of concrete legislation to regulate the safety of children online, the reporting mechanisms of these platforms are somewhat sufficient.

The Communication Authority of Kenya in 2018 came up with an initiative dubbed ‘Be the Cop’ meant to provide online protection for children. The Authority published a booklet aimed at providing guidelines on online protection. The booklet offers definitions for certain online crimes targeted at children, it also defines internet addiction and provides online safety tips for children. Being a guide, the booklet has no enforcement mechanisms. The Authority, however, established the Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT/CC) where one may report online abuse.

As a parent or guardian, here are some of the things you could look out for as signs of your child being radicalized or even self-radicalizing.

  • isolating themselves from family and friends

  • talking as if from a scripted speech

  • unwillingness or inability to discuss their views

  • a sudden disrespectful attitude towards others

  • increased levels of anger

  • increased secretiveness, especially around internet use.

If you come across any of the above, it is necessary that you seek help from a counselor, reach out to us through ou