Don't Click! project aims to empower youth to address online extremism
As online extremism becomes an increasingly challenging issues for everyone in society, a youth-led project is working to give junior high students tools and strategies for addressing this complex issue.
The project has roots in a research project started out in 2020, by 16-year-old Henry Kerr, who was a youth advisor to the REACH Edmonton Board at the time.
Henry’s research inspired the formation of the Don’t Click! Youth Group, which is using the survey results and other research to develop youth-led prevention projects. The group has created three presentations for junior high students to teach about online hate and extremism prevention, and to provide practical strategies for addressing these issues.
Supported by the Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV), REACH Edmonton, and other school leadership programs and city agencies, the ‘Don’t Click’ youth group is continuing this work through presentations in local schools, as well as the creation of the Don’t Click documentary that shares the vision of the project.
“We’ll be going into schools and educating junior high students about the project and extremism online, “says Romi Khabra, Project Coordinator and Training Coordinator for REACH Edmonton.
“We’re expanding a bit more into the topic of empathy this year,” she says. “How can we be empathetic and what does that look like?”
The project is in contact with public and private schools in Edmonton, working to provide junior high students with information about how to deal with negativity online, whether it’s directed at themselves or someone else in their peer group.
“A lot of our youth are on social media now quite a bit, and especially tiktok,” says Romi. “You don’t even realize it’s happening. If you’re more aware it’s more likely you’re not going to be trapped in that cycle.”
During the sessions, the youth are given a chance to ask questions and discuss this complex issue as a group.
“Junior high kids ask thoughtful questions,” says Romi. “Being lonely can be terrible for mental health, and they know this. We’ve heard them talking about the epidemic of loneliness among our youth.”
With young people swimming in a sea of storylines on the internet at younger and younger ages, teaching the basics of fact-checking and understanding the warning signs of a person being radicalized are key for youth to be able to address this issue from inside their own peer groups in an effective way.
For more information about the Don’t Click project, and to watch the documentary, click here.