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Matteo Bergamini

Matteo Bergamini

Why Do We Vote? A Fun Guide to Elections

Imagine you’re deciding which snacks to choose for a sleepover night with your friends. Do you go for Doritos, M&Ms or Haribo? One way to decide might be to vote. Everyone gets to say what they want, and the snack with the most votes wins. Voting in elections is kind of like that, but for big decisions that affect everyone in a town, city, or even a whole country – like how much funding schools and hospitals get and which new laws will be introduced.

Why Do We Vote?

Making Choices Together: Just like choosing a snack, voting helps us make decisions together as a group. We vote forleaders in our community, or MPs (Members of Parliament), who will make important choices for our community and country.

Having a Say: Voting gives you and your parents a chance to have their voice heard. When you grow up, your vote will be your way of saying what you think is best for your community, school, or country.

Fairness: Voting is a fair way to decide things. Everyone gets one vote, and everyone’s vote counts the same. It’s a way to make sure that decisions are made by the people, for the people.

Shaping the Future: The leaders we choose make decisions that shape our future. They decide on things like education, policing and safety, and how to protect our environment. By voting, we help pick the people who we think will make our world a better place.

How Do Elections Work?

Before an election, candidates (the people who want to be leaders) share their ideas and plans. They might give speeches, debate on TV, and talk to people to explain why they should be chosen. On election day, people go to polling stations, set up in different community buildings close to where they live (your school could be one of them!), mark their choices on a ballot paper listing the candidates, and then the votes are counted to see who wins.

So, whenever you hear about an election, you’ll know it’s all about making choices, being fair, and building a bright future together! On the 4th July, you may be holding a mock election at school, but remember, once you’re eighteen you’ll be able to get #BallotBound and cast your own real vote too!

Originally Published Here: https://live.firstnews.co.uk/fn-childrens-party/resources-for-grown-ups/why-do-we-vote/

One of the biggest problems this election? Faith in politics and media is at rock bottom

As the founder of Shout Out UK, a social enterprise that runs political and media literacy programmes, it would be easy to feel discouraged by the results of the latest UK social attitudes survey. Sadly, these show that Britons’ faith in our politicians and media has fallen to an all-time low. For me though, this growing disillusionment with mainstream politics, which can too often be exploited by those holding extremist views, only highlights the importance of our mission at Shout Out UK.

Since 2015, we’ve been working in the UK and around the world to increase young people’s engagement with democracy and to increase their resilience to disinformation. Our educational programmes teach practical media literacy techniques, arming today’s digital citizens with the tools they need to seek out quality information and make informed decisions, a topic that is imperative to a functioning democracy.

Our current short-term goal is to encourage participation in the UK general election, particularly among historically underrepresented groups such as members of poorer households and the 18-24 age group. Our biggest ever digital campaign, #BallotBound delivered hundreds of thousands of young people to the government’s voter registration web page, prior to the 18 June deadline. We’re working flat out with partners such as Big Issue and others to spread the word and give young voters the crucial info they need to vote for their local representative this summer.

A bigger question though, and one we think about every day at Shout Out UK, is how to show people the value of engaging with the democratic process in the first place, after all democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box, it starts there. In the UK, years of political turmoil have fuelled not just a dearth of trust in politicians and the media, but striking levels of voter apathy. A recent YouGov poll found ‘lack of trust in politicians’ was the top reason behind the decision not to vote. A depressing state of affairs as we near a crucial election which will determine the direction of UK policy for the next five years.

Many voters feel overwhelmed by the seriousness of the issues facing the country: the cost of living crisis, climate change, a faltering NHS, rising international crises – it’s a scary list. Who can blame people if they prefer to spend an hour scrolling cat clips on the internet rather than diving into those lengthy party manifestos? For those facing structural barriers to voting such as lack of internet access or voter ID, or homelessness, the desire to switch off from politics may be particularly strong.

What’s more, in an era where many young people now use social media to keep up with news content, there is a real danger of falling for emotionally manipulative political misinformation, often amplified by algorithmic bias. The BBC has reported that young people have already been targeted with misleading political content during this election campaign, including fake AI-generated videos of Rishi Sunak.

One answer, I believe, is in advocating for the value of political and media literacy as a foundational skill of the digital era – and one to be taught to all citizens, of every age. Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change rightly demands that digital inclusion should be a key mission for the incoming government. We’d build on this to point out that digital inclusion must go hand in hand with digital, media and political literacy. Access to the internet is a vital right for all Britons, but so is an education in how to pre-bunk online messages designed to mislead and deceive, along with a clear understanding of how our democracy functions.

This general election marks a turning point for the UK – do we seriously address a democratic deficit fuelled by misinformation, or ensure our next generation of citizens is the most politically well-informed ever? I’m staying hopeful.

Originally Published Here: https://www.bigissue.com/opinion/general-election-2024-democracy-voter-id-shout-out-uk/

If you don’t do politics, politics will do you

The idiom ‘history teaches us nothing’ is ambiguous. Originally declared by the German philosopher Georg Hegel, it suggests that there is nothing the past can teach us that may be helpful to the present. However, perhaps the real problem is that we are somehow incapable of learning from it.

This would seem to be so where politics is concerned. In 5th-century Athens, political participation was a matter of duty rather than personal choice. The city (political community) punished those who abstained from active citizenry with fines and public shaming. Politics was serious business in Ancient Greece and reserved for the few, not the many. Women, children and slaves were not regarded as citizens, and so could not vote.

Luckily, nowadays, almost anyone living in Britain can partake in the democratic process of voting. Across the nation, those who are British citizens, citizens of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, are 18 and over and have registered to vote can cast their ballot. Additionally, for those who are living in Wales or Scotland, the voting age is 16.

And yet, despite the barriers to voting having become more egalitarian since ancient times, political participation, especially amongst the youth, remains low. During the 2016 EU Referendum, voter turnout for 18 to 24-year-olds was 60 per cent while those aged 65 to 74 contributed a healthier 82 per cent.

The 2019 General Election yielded a total turnout of 66 per cent across all age groups, with 18-to-24-year-olds at 54 per cent and the 65s and above showing the highest turnout at 77 per cent.

Judging by these dispassionate voting figures, it would seem that history has taught us very little about the importance of embracing opportunities to become active rather than passive citizens of a democracy. For thinkers such as Aristotle, this would be inconceivable.

Famously stating that ‘a human being is by nature a political animal’, he underscored our capacity to be rational and aim for the common good, which could only be gained by being part of a political community. According to Aristotle, those who abstained were ‘either a beast or a god,’ since only an animal lacks reason and only a god is self-sufficient enough to make do without the protection and benefits of a city.

Aristotle aside, there is a distinct difference between being politically engaged and being civil (that is, being a member of a political community). The latter does not entail the former, though it presupposes it in an ideal city.

Therein lies the problem we presently face. Political apathy and disengagement have become recurring characteristics of our society, largely owing to poor levels of political literacy. When people are politically illiterate democracy suffers and when democracy contracts, society experiences a gradual breakdown in justice.

The opposite of this is democratic engagement through active participation as citizens, and due accountability from our political representatives.

The People have spoken

One infamous quote frequently used in political parlance was given by the American Democratic politician Dick Tuck in 1966 when he ran for the California Senate. On being asked what he thought of his election defeat, he said: ‘The people have spoken ….’ What is less known but of infinitely more importance is Tuck’s full statement: The people have spoken – the bastards.’

As someone who was not beyond tricks and deceit to get votes, earning him the nickname ‘Tricky Dick‘, Tuck expressed an essential truth about the influence of civil society within the public sphere when it comes to questions of politics; namely, that in a genuine democracy, the people have the last word.

The inherent power of the people to overturn expected outcomes by expressing their will has continued to surface through the years. Most recently, it was evident following the Brexit Referendum’s surprise ‘Leave’ vote and in the election of political provocateur Donald Trump. But despite these clear examples of civil engagement, young people continue to struggle to appreciate the quiet power of democracy.

Nothing so crude as using shards of pottery to cast one’s vote is required nowadays, but registering to vote and having an accepted photo voter ID is. Statistics for voter registration in 2018 for 16 to 24-year-olds reveal an average of 53 per cent. In 2022, the average for the same age group across the country slipped to 48 per cent. By comparison, those who are 35 to 64 achieved a 90 per cent registration rate in the same year.

That said, the same statistics, published by the Electoral Commission this year, did have one major positive in that ‘in England, among different types of local authority area, the most notable change in completeness has been among London boroughs with an increase from 76% in 2018 to 82% in 2022’.

The one notable difference across London and the rest of the country is London Voter Registration Week. Originally piloted by the Greater London Authority in 2019, it was then delivered year-on-year by Shout Out UK, a civil society organisation, of which I am founder and CEO. This dedication by the major regional authority year-on-year to an impartial, non-election-specific week where Londoners focus on their civic role, responsibility and rights has paid off.

Democratic engagement as continuous

Impact-orientated democratic engagement, then, should not be a ‘one-hit wonder’ for elections, but a constant effort to educate and engage, to replicate the results in London, with basic knowledge of politics (known as political literacy) introduced at an early stage in schools.

That said, we must not forget that political illiteracy is not reserved exclusively for the next generation. A report commissioned by the APPG on Political Literacy and authored by Dr James Weinberg of Sheffield University found that, of all the teachers surveyed across England for the report, less than 1 per cent self-reported as having the ability, knowledge and tools to actually deliver strong political literacy.

Political Literacy is a vital component for democracy and ensuring that future generations partake in their civil duties, but this can only be done effectively with a strong civil society, a committed government and the workforce in schools that can deliver this.

Make no mistake, this lacking in our civic education ensures our vulnerability to dis/misinformation and gives us a collective false sense that we have a choice between taking part in politics and civic life or not. We don’t. The only choice we have is if we want to be in the ‘room’ voicing our opinion about decisions that ultimately will always affect us, or stand outside and let others speak for us.

After all, only when a country has a sufficiently educated voting public, can it truly be said that ‘the people have spoken’.

Originally Published Here: https://www.bps.org.uk/psychologist/if-you-dont-do-politics-politics-will-do-you

Getting London Ready For Photo Voter ID

Voting rights are changing. London is preparing. Are you ready?

The Elections Act (2022) is changing the way we vote in London, especially with the introduction of mandatory photo voter identification. London already had one of the lowest voter registration rates across the UK and polling commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA)* showed that one in ten Londoners were at risk of losing their democratic voices, as they did not hold an accepted form of photo ID, as specified in the Elections Act, and 6 in 10 did not even know about these changes. This is on top of the structural barriers already faced by under-represented communities who were more likely to become further disenfranchised, on top of being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

Hence, in January 2023, the GLA and Shout Out UK (SOUK) launched an unprecedented, and impartial public awareness campaign to raise awareness about these changes to ensure every eligible Londoner can continue to access their democratic rights and have a say in the decisions that impact them and the issues that matter to them. The Voter ID campaign has been run in coordination with the nation-wide Electoral Commission campaign and bolstered by the support of a broad network of London boroughs, civil society organisations and educational institutions.

The first phase of the campaign took place between16 January and 31 March and harnessed the power of the #NoVoteNoVoice slogan in order to grow the existing London Voter Registration Week coalition of support, deliver in-person activities and expand to new audiences through a social media campaign.

In the lead up to the campaign launch, the GLA and SOUK co-designed and co-produced print and digital resources with under-represented and under-registered London communities. As a result, we created a dynamic and diverse content deck, for various audiences and platforms, which included awareness of the accepted forms of photo ID to vote, how to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate, and that the first step remains the need to register to vote. On top of this, we produced educational materials for civic and democratic engagement lessons, accessible resources for Deaf and disabled Londoners, resources in the top 10 community languages spoken in London and a community-led film highlighting the in-person activities that took place throughout the first phase of the campaign.

Over 360 stakeholders, made up of civil society organisations, influencers, brands, local authorities in and outside of London and educational institutions, posted and/ or engaged with the campaign throughout the three months. This huge network of partners and organic supporters shows the myriad of voices in London helping to disseminate vital Voter ID resources through their internal channels and via their social media platforms. The Voter ID community film produced by SOUK had almost 350,000 views on Twitter alone and 22,000 on YouTube. The information Voter ID animation received almost 117,000 views on Twitter and 40,000 on YouTube.

In total, through our organic posts and paid social media ads, SOUK had a reach of over 36 million, over 575,000 engagements and 6.5 million impressions.

On top of the digital campaign work, SOUK delivered a number of in person and online community engagement events, helping the campaign reach 3,750 Londoners, including Deaf and disabled Londoners and older Londoners. Furthermore, SOUK partnered up with the3million, the largest EU grassroots organisation in the UK, to deliver eight in-person events targeting a key audience that will be affected by the voting system changes: EU and migrant Londoners. These events brought communities together to learn about Voter ID and how they can continue to exercise their democratic and civic rights in this wonderful city we all call home. The events were all live streamed, giving the informational sessions longevity beyond phase one of the campaign.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard about any of this. Before I didn’t know about the Greater London Authority, the boroughs or parish councils, or how they work. I think it’s really important that projects like these exist, where you go into schools and teach us how these systems work. It means that we can see how we can have an effect on society, not just by being heard, but also by making a tangible difference.” 

– Year 13 student, Bridge Academy

In this first phase, SOUK also delivered civic and democratic engagement lessons to 625 young Londoners across five educational institutions, encouraging them to register to vote and learn about the importance of civic and democratic participation. These in-person activities invigorated the social media campaign and the coalition of support to continue sharing these Voter ID resources far and wide because to put it simply, #NoVoteNoVoice.

The hope for the next phase of the campaign is to build on the successes of the first phase  and to ensure the multitude of voices that make up London are aware of the changes brought about by the Elections Act and continue to be able to use their voice and their vote.

It’s up to every one of us to make a difference. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. If you are a Londoner – make sure you have an accepted photo ID to vote or apply for the free Voter Authority Certificate and spread the word to your family, friends and in your community to help reach as many Londoners as possible.
  2. Share our Voter ID 2023 resources by visiting the GLA Democracy Hub https://registertovote.london/ to learn more about what these changes mean for you.
  3. Stay informed about the campaign by following Shout Out UK on Twitter (@Shoutout_UK), Facebook (@ShoutOutUK) and Instagram (@shoutoutuk_official)

And remember: Voting rights are changing. London is preparing. Are you ready? #NoVoteNoVoice

*The survey was carried out online by YouGov Plc. for the Greater London Authority. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th and 24th August 2022 with a total sample size of 1,245 London residents. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+). https://data.london.gov.uk/gla-poll-results/2022-2/

Originally Published Here: https://registertovote.london/getting-london-ready-for-photo-voter-id/

Matteo Bergamini

How local government can improve political literacy and democratic engagement

Shout Out UK is a multi-award winning social enterprise that provides impartial political and media Llteracy training and campaigns focused on democratic engagement and combatting disinformation online, tailored to local circumstances and culture. In this article, Matteo Bergamini, SOUK’s CEO and Founder, reflects on their recent work with the GLA, shedding light on the ways local authorities can encourage political literacy and democratic engagement.

Democratic engagement and Political Literacy are one and the same. We can’t expect high levels of critical engagement in democracy without first ensuring those who can vote are informed of their democratic rights and responsibilities. Currently, Political Literacy is missing from schools, depriving young people of this vital education.

The problem grows as it is not just the next generation that missed out. A report co-created by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Political Literacy, the University of Sheffield, and Shout Out UK (SOUK), which polled Parents of more than 1,500 pupils aged 11-18, together with 3,300 secondary school teachers found that while 72% of parents consider it important for children to be politically literate, only 1% of teachers in England feel prepared to teach politics.

SOUK was created specifically to resolve this issue, which, left unchecked, will disrupt the very democracy most of us take for granted. Launched in 2015 when I was 22, we have grown into the foremost creative social enterprise on a mission to defend and amplify democracy by ensuring all citizens understand how their government functions through political literacy, are inoculated from disinformation and misinformation through media literacy and are given a chance to have a say in how their country is run through our own youth voice platform and various programmes.

One such programme, launched in June 2023, is our unprecedented, impartial public awareness campaign about changes to the voting system to ensure every eligible Londoner can continue to access their democratic rights. In partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA), Local councils, civil society groups and education institutions, this campaign aims to ensure all Londoners are given the political literacy necessary to not get caught out by the changes.

Last month, thousands of eligible voters were unable to exercise their democratic rights across England when the first elections took place since the new mandatory photo Voter IDs rule was introduced, with the Electoral Commission stating that voter ID “posed a greater challenge for some groups in society”.

Phase two of the awareness campaign, which is coordinated with the Electoral Commission’s nationwide campaign, will see communication to Londoners across traditional and social media, as well as grassroots community engagement. It will include accessible materials for Deaf and disabled Londoners and translations in 15 community languages. Along with the more standard digital approaches, the GLA and SOUK are launching a WhatsApp-based Democracy chatbot helpline that will support Londoners to navigate the voting changes. Once accessed through your phone, as you respond the chatbot will give voters personalised advice tailored to their needs ensuring all the unique intricacies of the elections act that often affects citizens differently depending on their situation are given in an accessible and impartial way. A first in the sector.

Political Literacy is all-encompassing, it should start in school with lessons and continue throughout our democratic lives through creative, record-setting campaigns like this one backed by a positive impartial collaborative relationship between civil society, education and government. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this historic work of ensuring every single Londoner is aware of the changes to the way we engage in our democracy, with a particular focus on those likely to be most impacted. Watch this space.

Originally Published Here: https://lgiu.org/blog-article/how-local-government-can-improve-political-literacy-and-democratic-engagement/

What can schools really do about Andrew Tate?

A teacher friend recently mentioned that demands to “make me sandwich, Miss” had become an almost daily occurrence at their school.

They were slightly baffled. They’d been in the profession for over 15 years, had cultivated positive relationships with young people making their way through some formative, defining, and yes, often challenging years. But this was something new.

Our friend was not entirely sure what to do about it. They turned to the Deputy Headteacher responsible for school culture and behaviour, who had also noticed some unexpected, unusual, and problematic behavioural and verbal trends in school since late 2022. They had turned to other schools in the Trust and the local authority’s team responsible for tackling threats to young people, and it appeared that this was by no means unique to one school. No one had yet appeared to have developed a comprehensive or demonstrably successful strategy for tackling the issue.

So it was no surprise when, in April 2023, the Guardian published an article discussing the lack of adequate guidance for schools in relation to the impact of objectively misogynist, racist, or radicalising messaging online.

How serious is it?

Interest in the kinds of online, radical misogyny represented by some social media influencers has grown in recent months, one of the most notorious being Andrew Tate. Tate is a British-American former kickboxer turned influencer, who has built a formidable reputation on the basis of his contentious views and bombastic style. Tate has become a kind of figurehead, shorthand and metaphor, representing a much larger movement. Despite his banning from most of the most recognisable social media platforms and detentions for serious crimes, his presence in this network means that his – and similar – content is widely available.

Young people, and boys in particular, are a primary audience for this kind of content. A recent poll reported by Hope Not Hate found that 67% of young people had encountered Tate’s content. Concerningly, the same poll found that Tate was remarkably popular with boys and young men in particular, with 52% of 16-17 year old males, and 44% of 18-24 year old males retaining a positive view of material.

While so, we want to resist entering into a moral panic.

We know that young people are not impressed by that kind of approach, and technology-induced moral panic in particular. However, what the recent evidence suggests is that not only is content shared by Tate and the wider network available, it might be playing a formative role in the ways young people are building values and behaviour systems during a key time in their development. This is a serious issue. Drawing on Livingstone and Stoilova’s ‘4 C’s’ model of online risk, the push of far right, radical, and misogynist material raises red flags in three of the four C’s:

The types of language, images, and verbal messaging being projected to young people is a form of content risk. The ways in which Tate’s and similar material is pushed to young people on social media, and the absence of adequate legislation to protect them in those spaces is a contract risk. And the types of behaviours in which they might engage, including the potential for violence against women and girls or self-harm is a conduct risk.

What can schools do?

It’s important to understand that none of this is occurring in a vacuum and that Andrew Tate is not the primary orchestrator of this perceived resurgence of misogyny. That would be giving him way too much credit. In reality he is a symptom of a problem that has partly always existed, super-charged by increased isolation and problematic disparities in thinking about gender roles between the sexes.

Individuals like Andrew Tate utilise the vulnerability of young men who face a world they increasingly struggle to understand, coupled with their isolation and lack of emotional resilience to convince them into buying expensive courses or membership. This method is by no means unique, individuals throughout history have utilised vulnerabilities and isolation to extract money from their marks.

The primary difference is that with rapid change both technologically and socially, more and more young people feel left out, socially alienated, and disengaged with politics, society, and their peers. With young people experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, economic challenges, and an uncertain future, the younger generation’s confidence in political institutions and trust in political leaders has declined. This has led them to seek out an alternative narrative and group, which pushes them into the hands of extremist narratives.

Moreover, many of the young people that turn to such ideologies do so not as a result of a specific attraction to such beliefs and extremist discourses. Rather, they do so to fulfil social and psychological needs in the form of community, identity, and a sense of belonging – which adherence to these beliefs provide.

The next thing to realise is that teachers and schools are not alone in tackling this challenge. Parents, third sector bodies, and many young people are also concerned about the rise of misogyny and far-right hate. This means that we are not going to be able to tackle the problem alone. We need a ‘multisystemic’ response, meaning that more than one system is going to have to work together. You can read more about multisystemic resilience (to all sorts of things) in this free book edited by Prof Michael Ungar.

So the first thing schools need to do is to map all of the organisations, teams, and stakeholders involved in creating the kind of atmosphere at school that you want to achieve. Think about:

  1. Your local Tackling Threats Against Children team
  2. Anyone involved in the Prevent strategy
  3. Community and specialist police
  4. Parent groups
  5. School governors
  6. Local Academy Trusts
  7. What role could each stakeholder take to help build resilience against the rise of online misogyny in your school setting?

School of Criminology partners, Shout Out UK (SOUK) tackle these issues through Political and Media Literacy education in schools, for parents and beyond. SOUK believes that this kind of education is paramount in ensuring we tackle the root cause of why young men (in particular) are being attracted to this ideology and to ensure we provide everyone with the critical thinking skills necessary to deal with the digital world.

The SOUK method focuses on teaching both Political and Media Literacy in tandem. Political Literacy offers an understanding of their democracy, how to engage with it and how to facilitate change if they want to, removing that feeling of hopelessness and isolation by giving them an understanding and route to power that is strictly apolitical. Whilst media literacy ensures those young people are given the critical thinking skills and emotional resilience necessary to not get caught out by such misinformation online.

That said, we can’t just focus on young people. Education against such ideologies is never ending and requires both parents and teachers to also have these skills. A report entitled ‘The Missing Link’, published by the APPG on Political Literacy, found that around less than 1% of teachers believed they have the skills and tools necessary to deliver vital political and media literacy in schools.

Which is why SOUK is running both Train the Trainer programmes for professionals and parents and carers across the country. Most recently SOUK ran several such workshops in the Norfolk and Suffolk region, to navigate the online world via a free ‘combatting online radicalisation and extremism’ course that provides practical tools and strategies to safeguard young people from modern 21st-century threats.

When the parents and carers were asked to agree or disagree with the following statement ‘I know what steps to take to verify a source’, prior to the programme only 34% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. Post programme this increased to 85.34%.

Equally, when parents and carers were asked to agree or disagree with the following statement ‘I feel confident discussing controversial issues with my young person’, prior to the programme only 57% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. Post programme this increased to 70.68%.

We as a society got caught out by these ideologies and as a result they have spread, but ensuring that we offer space on the curriculum for the education that will inoculate the next generation and arming teachers, parents and carers with the skills they need to continue the education at home will create a downward spiral for such ideologies that are enjoying a temporary resurgence, but ultimately are on borrowed time.

Authored by Di Levine, Assistant Professor/Lecturer in Criminology and Visiting Research Associate (Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg) and Matteo Bergamini, Founder and CEO of Shout Out UK. Originally published here: https://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/criminology/2023/06/05/what-can-schools-really-do-about-andrew-tate/

Help parents tackle risks of radicalisation

Parents have a vital role to play in efforts to tackle radicalisation and extremism among young people being both a source of advice in navigating online risks and an early warning system when problems arise.

But to do this effectively, parents need to ensure their own knowledge of young people’s behaviour and understanding of the risks is up to date. It is for that reason that we are calling for a national investment in training for parents about online extremism.

Latest Home Office figures indicate why we need action. They show that school-aged children, particularly boys, now make up the largest group of those deemed most at risk of radicalisation, and under-18s make up one in eight terrorism-related arrests in the UK.

A United Nations report highlighted how the pandemic fuelled terrorism and violent extremism. With younger people spending longer periods of unsupervised time online via their phones or gaming devices, groomers were able to prey on impressionable minds.

The post-pandemic landscape is equally alarming. Young people around the world are grappling to understand and accept a world of social, economic and political instability, leading them to turn to social media and the internet in search of a sense of identity, belonging and acceptance.

Easily searchable groups on apps such as Telegram, Discord, and Twitch – which proliferated during the pandemic – means more extreme networks are infiltrating vulnerable individuals and groups, finding new ways to appeal to young people all over the world.

The signs of radicalisation are not always obvious, and there’s no way of knowing whether a child or young person is likely to be susceptible to an extremist ideology. Nevertheless, education can play a vital role in preparing parents and carers to be able to spot the warning signs because prevention is always safer, easier and cheaper than cure.

SOUK, which provides impartial political and media literacy, has been helping parents and carers, most recently in the Norfolk and Suffolk region, to navigate the online world via a free “combatting online radicalisation and extremism” course that provides practical tools and strategies to safeguard young people from today’s threats.

The courses focus on how to identify fact from fiction, understand new and emerging social media sites and their role in spreading extremist ideologies and how to start a conversation with young people about what they see and engage with online.

When the parents and carers were asked to respond to the statement: “I know what steps to take to verify a source”, only 34 per cent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement prior to the programme. After participating in the programme this increased to 85 per cent.

When asked to respond to the statement: “I feel confident discussing controversial issues with my young person”, only 57 per cent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” prior to the programme. This increased to 71 per cent afterwards.

And when asked to respond to the statement: “I understand the relationship between media literacy and extremism”, only 46 per cent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement prior to the programme, but this increased to 95 per cent afterwards.

We believe it is of the utmost importance that parents and carers throughout the country are offered free training so we can prevent young vulnerable people from finding a sense of belonging in online extremist forums and protect them from dangerous ideologies.

As the world rapidly changes, there is no time to waste. We are calling on local authorities and safeguarding teams to work with us so that they can implement similar courses and encourage parents and carers across the country to learn how we can keep children safe online.

Originally published here: https://www.cypnow.co.uk/opinion/article/help-parents-tackle-risks-of-radicalisation

Millennifest

Millennifest

Snowflake, avocado eating youngsters. We millennials get a bad rap in the press. Often described as the snowflake generation, we are characterised as being weak minded, easy to offend and lazy. Seen as voiceless, we tend to not have many places offline to debate, discuss and challenge these ludicrous stereotypes.

With Millennifest, that all changed. Organised by CoVi, a millenial think-tank, Millennifest brought together young millennials in a series of events up and down the country. We discussed politics, ran workshops and took part in The Policy Factor, a political X Factor. I was lucky enough to attend most of the event series to host a workshop on ‘Human Rights and Brexit’ and apart from the incredible calibre of speakers CoVi managed to secure, the sell-out crowd at each event were a powerful testament to the fact that millennials are anything but snowflakes.

During the workshops I ran, people were debating, inquisitive and engaged. Other workshops included how to get funding, campaigning tools, local politics and what is Britishness? The topics, level of discussion and vibe was incredible at every single event. It is often said of our generation that we can’t take a joke… reality is we can, this is the generation that laughs at memes all day after all, we just don’t like racist and sexist jokes pertinent of the previous generation. True to form, Millennifest discussions where full of jokes as well as serious debate at every opportunity. During the final event in London, CoVi decided to host the finale at a farm… yes a farm. Apart from the slight smell on one side of the venue, it was incredible to see millennials debating and discussing politics while surrounded by animals.

Brightly coloured tape and signs littered each event with speaker bios, suggestions from future speakers and CoVi’s Brexibition! A mural of organisations and information about Brexit. Everything was interactive, from speaker suggestions to quotes you could put up. You felt a part of the festival, rather than just a guest.

Naturally, the Brexit issue was heavily covered as one of the biggest challenges of our generation. We will be the ones forced to live the entirety of our lives with the decisions made by the government and any implications that may accompany this. The Policy Factor speeches focused on Brexit and a post-Brexit Britain, with speeches varying from leave to remain and from a variety of speakers including MPs like Vince Cable.

During each speech and Q&A, those same snowflakes where challenging the speakers unapologetically. The next generation had something to say and we said it. Rejecting sweet talk from politicians saying ‘we are the future…’ we know this! Stop giving us platitudes and say what you will do to help us change society for the better.

It is clear we are facing a huge inter-generational divide, with an ever more frustrated and angry millennial generation who feel ignored, pushed aside and discounted despite they being the ones who will inherit Britain. Millennifest, with its array of youth-led organisations, young speakers and crowd, was a clear statement from us as a generation. We are done being pushed aside.

Matteo Bergamini