A mom cautioned parents to stay vigilant with their children's social media engagement because she believes White supremacist groups may be grooming White teens for radicalization.
Joanna Schroeder, a Southern California author and mother of three children with two boys, urged parents—specifically with White teenage boys—to "listen up."
Schroeder wrote in a viral Twitter post from August:
"Listen up. I've been watching my boys' online behavior & noticed that social media and vloggers are actively laying groundwork in white teens to turn them into alt-right/white supremacists."
She published an essay in TheNew York Times about something she never saw coming pertaining to her 11 and 14-year-old sons.
"What I didn't predict, was that my sons' adolescence would include being drawn to the kind of online content that right-wing extremists use to recruit so many young men."
One of her boys saw a defamatory meme on Instagram that asked:
"If you can be [transgender] and just decide what you are then how come you can't just decide to be a penguin?"
Discovering that her boys were exposed to memes normalizing abhorrent ideals was a wake up call for Schroeder.
"I knew it was time to start looking at their social media use and figuring out what they were being exposed to."
When the concerned mother had her son scroll through his YouTube and Instagram newsfeeds, something disturbing caught her eye.
Schroeder told CNN that White supremacists are targeting teenage boys.
"They've studied the way that our young men interact online, and they have looked at what these boys need. And they have learned how to fill those needs in order to entice them into propaganda."
"He was scrolling quickly, really quickly. It was so fast, and he slowed down, and I saw an image of Hitler and I stopped him, and I said, 'Wait, is that Hitler?'"
The discovery about the führer was just the beginning.
"I know my kids understand Hitler, but as I scrolled through his [social media] I saw more memes that joked about the Holocaust and joked about slavery."
She followed up her initial Twitter post by explaining how subtle, hateful propaganda infiltrates social media designed to "disillusion White boys away from progressive/liberal perspectives."
She advised parents to watch for key phrases as an early indication that your impressionable son is already being influenced.
Schroeder told told CNN she was unnerved when one of her boys started using terminology associated with alt-right groups, like "trigger."
"You'll hear this from your conservative uncle, and you may also hear this from a kid that's getting a lot of alt-right messaging online — that everyone's too sensitive today,
"That is a very alt-right talking point that is entryway terminology. It's not racist. No, it's not, but it's often used against people who are calling out racism or sexism or homophobia as a way to imply that those of us who don't accept that language are just too sensitive."
Other parents chimed in with mixed reactions.
After discovering the alt-right propaganda, Schroeder's first instinct was to take away her sons' phones, but her husband convinced her to reel it in a bit.
"Condemning or shaming him would simply push him farther away from me and right into their hands. Shame is a force that I believe leads people to their worst decisions."
She now actively engages with her sons by analyzing memes and posts that raise concern.
It's part of what she calls "modern parenting."
"I taught them their ABCs, I potty trained them. My next big lesson is how to look at the media they are consuming constructively."
She proudly added:
"The kids and I are conspirators together."
The book Myths America Lives By: White Supremacy and the Stories That Give Us Meaning is available here.