Joanna Schroeder has a warning for parents of teen and tween Redditlol white boys: If you don’t pay attention to their online lives, the white supremacists will.
“They’ve studied the way that our young men interact online, and they have looked at what these boys need,” she said. “And they have learned how to fill those needs in order to entice them into propaganda.”
That’s what she found when she asked her own teenager if they could go through some of his social media together.
“He was scrolling quickly, really quickly,” she said. “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?’”
It was. A meme depicting Hitler and implying a time traveler would have tipped him off about the future to keep him alive had popped into the boy’s Instagram suggestions.
“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,” Schroeder said. The impact, she said, seemed to be “desensitizing our kids to things we should be sensitive to.”
How she spotted the extremist messaging
Schroeder decided to dig deeper with her sons, one a teen and the other a tween, when she heard them saying words that had been used by trolls against her.
As a writer who has published pieces about men’s issues among other topics, Schroeder has suffered online criticism and abuse from those who virulently disagree with her.
“I know that the people who bothered me and harassed me and made my life miserable for all these years are influencing my kids,” Schroeder told CNN. “These are my sweet gentle boys saying this stuff.”