Digital Citizens: Countering Extremism Online


The last half century has witnessed a burgeoning information revolution that has transformed our societies beyond recognition. The development of sophisticated computing, the technological reorientation of vast segments of the global workforce, the invention of the internet and most recently the proliferation of social media technology has radically changed the ways we work, live, develop and communicate. Political extremism and violent radicalism have not been excluded from this growing trend, with social media being used as a tool for the recruitment and exploitation of young people by extremist groups.

As a result, the development of digital citizenship in our young people, to help them navigate these new online challenges, has become an urgent need. British schools are responsible for identifying and building resilience against radicalisation as part of their duty of care. Many of the skills required to combat the influence of extremism and the ability of terrorist groups to exploit and manipulate young people are already taught in schools, through existing personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and citizenship efforts, the British values agenda and the work of individual school leaders and teachers. However, there is a dearth of high-quality resources designed to increase the resilience of young people to extremism and radicalisation in a digital context.

This report summarises the results of a pilot project which seeks to address this gap by developing, testing and evaluating new resources to help schools tackle online radicalisation. Based on the analysis of a survey of existing materials and a best practise review, it presents a digital citizenship intervention, developed by Demos and Bold Creative, designed to build this resilience to extremism, and measures its impact through a pilot study delivered in schools. At a time when the growth of social media combined with the influence of extremism makes it more important than ever, this report adds to the public evidence base regarding counter-extremism interventions in a school context, and contributes to the development of effective education for digital citizens.

The full report can be downloaded here.