The FBI has launched a computer-based program for violent-extremist awareness, called “Don’t be a Puppet.” The program is targeted specifically toward the American teen audience. The FBI hopes to reach American teens before they are lured and recruited by extremist groups via social media and the Internet. The program promotes critical-thinking skills by incorporating discussions, games, and quizzes. The main extremist groups it discusses are al-Qaida, ISIS/ISIL, al-Shabaab, Kahane Chai, and Hezbollah. The FBI is requesting community leaders, teachers, parents, coaches, and anyone involved with teens to initiate this discussion and promote the FBI awareness program. Without community support, this program will not be implemented as widely as the FBI hopes.
Although this program has good intentions, it is doubtful that it will significantly decrease the recruitment of our nation’s teens. Those teens who are at high risk are usually missing some fundamental need in their lives, which creates an opportunity for them to be recruited. Perhaps they are seeking a sense of worth, identity, purpose, or belonging. Often the teens utilize the Internet and social media to shape and fulfill their quest for understanding if their inner support structure is missing or weak. The FBI program may help people identify those teens who are at risk for recruitment or those who are actively being recruited by extremist groups. The FBI also offers a helpline for reporting any suspicious behavior, but without addressing the issues behind why our nation’s teens are being recruited, recruitment may not be prevented.
In addition to the FBI education program, major social media sites like Twitter and Google are now onboard for identifying and eliminating extremist accounts and data. This will more than likely cause the extremist groups to change their tactics and move to more obscure sites, or continue to create apps of their own. Parents should also be more involved in what sites their teens are on and which individuals they are routinely talking to. This will certainly have to be a collaborative effort if the FBI wants to stop the recruitment of American teens.
As this FBI program is just now being launched, it will be interesting to see how successful this program will be. What will their metrics be for measuring success since the threat is largely hidden? Will America embrace this education program and institute it across the country, or will it lack appeal among the youth?
Featured image courtesy of the FBI