PHOENIX — Do you know where your children are? That 1970s campaign has a whole new meaning now. In the past four months, ISIS militants have launched a sophisticated marketing campaign aimed at recruiting restless American teens.
“They’re reaching young women through dating sites, they’re reaching young men through video games,” said Rick Ross, founder of the Cult Education Institute.
He’s noticed ISIS is even intercepting kids on Twitter, Facebook and other social media pages. Tweens who use Instagram, KIK and Ask.fm are particularly easy to recruit because messages can be anonymous, leaving parents little evidence to track.
With more parents overworked and highly distracted, Ross sees a perfect recruiting environment.
“This plays to the advantage of groups like ISIS who will recruit without their families’ knowledge and then suddenly, the children disappear, and they travel to the Middle East and their parents cannot communicate with them,” Ross said.
Observant parenting caught three Denver girls at a German airport last week, running away to Syria to join the jihadists. Had they made it all the way, Ross said they would have discovered nothing romantic.
“The women are brutalized and made brides, and the men are brainwashed to fight in the name of Allah,” he said.
Once there, Ross said the teenagers are out of contact making it almost impossible to run an intervention.
Don’t wait for it to happen, he said. Instead, he encouraged parents get involved and check what their child is doing on their cellphone and computer.
“Be aware of where your child is browsing, what sites they are looking at,” he said, “who are they communicating with … parents can see their history by checking their browser, look at their favorites list, their bookmarks, Google it.”
If you see sites such as kik, Ask.fm, and Snapchat, demand to have the child’s passwords. These sites don’t have histories, but parents can request their child’s account be removed.
Ross recommended parents also watch their children’s behavior. Pay attention if there has been a stark change in behavior, their schedule, and friends.
“If they’re dropping their old friendships, and they’re really obsessing on this new group that they’ve met through the Internet,” he said, “that’s a big red flag.”