Did you know that at least 17 children, some as young as 14, have been arrested on terrorism charges over the past 18 months in the UK?  The mounting threat comes at a time when online radicalisation is more pervasive than ever, and preventative measures are still falling short. Extremists are using echo chambers to radicalise and recruit young people,  of whom 31% believe that search engine results are truthful.  Meanwhile, there is a scarcity of pedagogical resources that deal with the threat of online extremism and at the same time focus on critical thinking, media literacy and peer safeguarding.  This has the effect of undermining the values of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which provides youth with essential rights to free expression, education and access to information.
So, for the annual ‘Rule of Law Innovation Challenge’ run by the international human rights charity Lawyers without Borders, I and a few other students at King’s College London decided to design an interactive website educating young people around 14 and 15 years of age on how violent extremism spreads in an online environment and how they can use the internet safely and responsibly. After several months of hard work and sleepless nights filled with blood, sweat and tears, the website, entitled DigiTools, is now finally up and running. Its main part is an interactive story, through which teenagers get to learn about the online radicalisation process and how they can avoid the pitfalls that the story’s main character Lucas falls into. By incorporating interactive elements and quizzes the website aims to not only educate young people about online safety, such as the ability to identify manipulation techniques and check the trustworthiness of different media, but also encourage young adolescents to speak out as digital citizens.
Accompanying the interactive story, we developed a teacher’s guide which can be downloaded directly from the DigiTools website and forms the basis of the website’s use in a classroom setting. It consists of five lesson plans, which explore each topic and radicalisation stage in the interactive story in more depth through fun, group-based activities. Last but not least, the website contains a short section on the steps a person should take if they suspect a friend, relative or other individual close to them of being radicalised.
We designed the website as a ‘one-stop shop’. This means that the interactive story, the teacher’s guide, and the additional guidance on peer support are all incorporated into, and accessible from, the same website, making it particularly versatile for teenagers and teachers alike.
If your interest in online extremism and how to avoid it has now been sparked, you can access our website at https://www.digi-tools.org/. Feel free to browse and share it with friends and family – and if you happen to be a teacher, use it in your classroom! I hope you will find our project, even if only a part of it, useful.
If you would like to know more about the website and all the research that went into making it, you can download the website’s concept paper below.
 Mark Townsend, ‘How far right uses video games and tech to lure and radicalize teenage recruits’ (The Guardian, 14 February 2021) < https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/14/how-far-right-uses-video-games-tech-lure-radicalise-teenage-recruits-white-supremacists> accessed 30 January 2022.
 ‘Echo-chambers on social media radicalise young people, according to study’ (Glasgow Caledonian University, 15 July 2021) < https://www.gcu.ac.uk/theuniversity/universitynews/2021-echo-chambers-social-media-radicalise/> accessed 30 January 2022.
 Rachel Briggs et al, Policy Briefing: Countering the Appeal of Extremism Online (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2014) p 12.
 Louis Reynolds et al, Digital Citizens: Countering Extremism Online (DEMOS 2016) p 21.