The guidance on this page has been shaped by the brochure, Building Resilience & Confronting Risk in The Covid-19 Era: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization, prepared jointly be the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This short guide was edited with particular attention to the circumstances of the 2020-21 pandemic, but most of its points are applicable to all periods.

Sometimes the most helpful guidance comes in the form of personal accounts. A particularly valuable example, What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right, is a mother’s detailed narrative of her efforts to draw her teenage son from a quickly deepening engagement in an online white nationalist group. Writing anonymously to protect her son’s identity, this mother recounts the emotional stresses that led her son to white nationalism, shows the intensity of the social rewards membership provided him, and also models the sustained patience and understanding that enabled the parents to avoid a confrontation and gradually draw their son back, building on his own growing doubts.

“If [young people] begin to repeat themes or vocabulary associated with extremists and conspiracy theories, try not to ridicule or punish them. . . . Instead, suggest that the people spreading these messages may have their own motives besides the truth and a child’s well-being.”

I liked them because they were adults and they thought I was an adult. . . . . They took me seriously. . . . All I wanted was for people to take me seriously. They treated me like a rational human being, and they never laughed at me. I saw the way you and Dad looked at each other and tried not to smile when I said something.

Updated, October 2021