Police in London have warned parents to be on guard over the summer holidays as their children will be at increased risk of being “drawn into various forms of extremism”.
The Metropolitan Police said “an increasing number of young people” were being radicalised and advised parents and guardians to be on the lookout for telltale signs.
Officers listed a change in the level of tolerance a youngster has towards people with different views as one example of the signs of possible radicalisation.
The warning was issued in a letter to schools instructed to pass it on to parents. It was written by Jane Corrigan, Detective Superintendent and lead of the Met’s Prevent strategy, a government programme aimed at safeguarding and supporting those vulnerable to radicalisation.
“As the summer holidays approach, there is a good chance that your child will be spending more time online during their free time,” the letter said.
“One of the risks to young people online is from those looking to radicalise and draw them into extremism.
“I am therefore reaching out to parents and carers across every London borough to share information about spotting the signs of radicalisation in young people. This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm and I want to reassure you that the risk of radicalisation is still relatively low.
“However, we are seeing an increasing number of young people being drawn into various forms of extremism, so it is important we are doing everything to safeguard and protect young people from these risks.”
Det Supt Corrigan said any parent who suspects their child may have been radicalised should seek help through the Prevent programme and call ACT Early Support Line on 0800 011 376 to speak to specially trained officers.
She advised parents to “please be vigilant, particularly over the coming weeks when schools and colleges are closed” and urged them to come forward with any concerns they may have.
The majority of schools in England and Wales broke up for summer holidays last week.
The first weekend of school holidays ended in violence at a party in east London where up to 100 young people had gathered.
One man was shot dead and another stabbed at a gathering in Cheney Road Park, Waltham Forest, in the early hours of Sunday.
Local residents described how they had expected trouble when they saw groups arriving in the area.
One man, who did not want to be named, said: “We live round the corner so didn’t see anything but I did see earlier more and more kids showing up so we thought it would be raunchy and there would be a fight.
“We didn’t think it would be anything like this.”
Another resident, who also did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said he had to bring his young daughter home from the park at about 5pm because a group of teenagers had been “smoking weed” and taking other drugs since early afternoon.
“There’s always trouble around here,” he said.
A large cordon remained in place around the park and neighbouring streets on Sunday while the crime scene was scoured by a forensics team.
Met officers were also carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the area.