White nationalist groups know that most teenagers are trying out new identities and hoping to show they are no longer children. These groups send kids a simple message: most adults fear or do not understand the “truth,” and parents who oppose white nationalism are not trustworthy. This message is designed to take away your leverage to influence your kids.
Talking to your kids about white nationalism before they begin to rebel can be an effective way to discourage later engagement. These conversations can emphasize that staying true to their values is part of becoming an adult. They can be most effective if the tone is positive, and you express confidence in your child’s ability to figure out what’s right to do.
Discuss white nationalism before kids become engaged
Once white nationalists have told kids that their parents will argue against white nationalism because they are blinded by “normie” thinking, straight talk about the dangers of white nationalism can become counterproductive. But if your child hasn’t yet become engaged, you can prepare your kids to see through that message.
Here are a few ways to approach your discussions that have been shown to help young people build resistance to white nationalist messages.
- Warn them that there are groups and websites trying to convince young white people that all non-whites — including friends and schoolmates — are threatening and should be rejected.
- Tell them that, although they may feel they could not be convinced, these groups and websites know how to get kids to change their beliefs and values.
- Convey a simple version of white nationalist ideas:
- What matters most about people is their skin color, their race.
- Evil forces are trying to destroy the white race and replace it.
- People of color must be dominated or separated so that whites keep power.
- Make clear that these are ideas are false and that the arguments white nationalists make are distortions, based on “evidence” that is not true. (For background information see, What American White Nationalists Believe.)
- Less can be more at this step: Rather than going into detail, it can be more effective to let a young person develop their own arguments against white nationalism after they are alerted. If kids are responsive to your discussion, asking them to say or think further about how they would respond to white nationalist ideas could be helpful reinforcement.
- Warn them that white nationalists are going to tell them not to listen to their parents or other adults who don’t support white nationalism.
Many parents don’t realize white nationalists are targeting kids still in grade school. The editor of the popular white nationalist website has repeatedly said that he targets kids as young as ten years-old.
Support kids’ digital literacy
Kids need to learn that the internet is a source of both good and bad information, and that bad information may be either an honest mistake or a lie intended to manipulate people. This understanding is as much a part of “digital literacy” as learning how to search the web.
- Learn how your child’s school is teaching digital literacy.
- Reinforce the message that learning to distinguish reliable from unreliable information is essential.
Kids often first encounter white nationalism online. Once they access a site spreading white nationalist ideas, Google, YouTube, or other sites and search engines will increasingly suggest similar content. Parents need to make individual judgments about how much unsupervised freedom to grant their children online. Consider linking increased online privileges to your confidence in your child’s digital literacy skills.
Help kids meet emotional and social needs
Young people’s resistance to white nationalist recruitment is strongest when they feel free to communicate their thoughts, participate in rewarding activities that build self-confidence, and interact positively with people of many races and backgrounds. To help foster these outcomes:
- Maintain a home environment that encourages plenty of discussion and lets kids feel it’s ok to express what they are thinking.
- Keep an eye out for signs of white nationalist engagement, especially if you spot a pattern of increased seclusion, social isolation, and excessive time on the Internet. The attractions of white nationalism can be stronger during periods of normal adolescent stress.
- Consider whether your child will benefit from participating in after-school activities that build abilities, self-confidence, and social skills for interacting with a variety of different peers and mentors.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers, clergy, or other mentors if you feel you or your child needs help or counseling.
The main source for this page was Kurt Braddock’s, Weaponized Words, especially chapter 4. Braddock provides models of how to approach conversations with young people who have been radicalized or prior to exposure to extremist ideas, and we have adapted one of these models here.
Braddock also explores adaptable approaches to deradicalization developed in Europe to counter recruitment by ISIS. The most successful is called the “Aarhus Model,” named for a Danish city that was able to end an unusually sharp rise in young people traveling abroad to fight on behalf of ISIS. The Aarhus model is detailed in Preben Bertelsen, Danish Preventive Measures and De-radicalization Strategies: The Aarhus Model. The Aarhus Model is principally a model to build resistance to extremism on the community level, but we have applied some of its ideas to the home context here.
In their own words
Our target audience is white males between the ages of 10 and 30. I include children as young as ten, because an element of this is that we want to look like superheroes. We want to be something that boys fantasize about being a part of.
- Andrew Anglin on his Daily Stormer website, August 2017
Updated, October 2021