Online evil

2015-05-05 06:00

How does a normal girl, from the southern suburbs, get lured into joining an extremist group?

This is the question on many lips, after a 15-year-old Cape Town girl was removed from a flight to Johannesburg. It is suspected she was attempting to join Islamic State (ISIS), a fundamentalist grouping in Northern Syria infamous for recruiting terrorists.

Media reports claim around 550 young women are already settled in ISIS areas, with a steady flow of recruits from over 83 countries. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 appear to be targeted, with promises of an idealistic, and even romantic, life.

This recruitment is made even easier through social media.

Teenagers will always be teenagers. Idealistic, passionate and inclined to rebel.

But just because they are adolescents, we should not forget that they are still children who need protection.

It falls to us – parents, teachers and community members – to take an interest in what our children are exposed to online.

We need to monitor what sites they visit and whom they speak to. While this might seem overbearing to some, parents need to realise that not everyone on the other end of the chat is innocent.

The best way to do this is to educate yourself on the dangers of the internet. We can no longer be “technology challenged” parents.

Communication is the next strongest tool to ensuring children remain safe. Don’t be afraid to ask your children about their online activities and whom they chat to. Set guidelines for using the internet and remind them frequently to never give out personal details. There is even software that will allow you to monitor and limit internet use.

We are the first defence against those who would prey on children, online or otherwise, and it falls to us to do everything in our power to protect them

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