Why Are So Many Teenagers Joining ISIS?

Back in February, Saturday Night Live found itself in hot water for a skit that featured an Army-ad spoof in which a tearful father drops his reassuring daughter off at an ISIS recruitment camp.

Much of Twitter reacted with somewhat predictable outrage, perhaps not aware of how on the nose the skit actually was.

Over the past few months, there has been a rash of teenagers—particularly teenage girls—leaving their homes to join the ranks of ISIS. In 2014, Samra Kesinovic (16) and Sabina Selimovic (15) fled their homes in Austria and are believed to have joined ISIS in Syria.

Little is known of their whereabouts, though the UN believes one of them may have been killed in conflict. Last September, authorities stopped two others girls, aged 16 and 14, from trying to sneak out of the country, as well.

But it’s not just Austria. In February of this year, three teenage girls fled London and are believed to have landed in Syria. They may have been recruited by a 20-year-old woman named Aqsa Mahmood. Mahmood was known as a bright, popular student in Scotland, where she grew up, but she ran away from her home in 2013 and today is thought to be one of ISIS’ chief recruiters.

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So far, the only thing that the girls lining up to join ISIS seem to have in common is their complete normalcy. They all seem to be intelligent, well-liked and driven to succeed.

In 2015, the old lines about being careful who you talk to on the Internet can seem downright quaint, since most of us spend a good deal of our day-to-day talking to total strangers on the Internet. But it’s worth noting that the Internet remains a very twisted minefield of influences. And while many of us are justifiably concerned about our information slipping into the wrong hands, we need to be equally cautious about the ideas slipping into ours.

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