More and more parents & teachers are coming to understand this:
Kids at every age need two things: connection and education. Because they will find them, and follow whoever gives them a sense of connection, and they will believe whatever that person teaches them.
Cult recruiters know it. They have always exploited this dynamic: finding the disaffected, the lonely, the disconnected, the kids–of whatever age–who feel unloved, unheard, unvalued, and inviting them to belong. Charles Manson knew it. The White Nationalists know it. Extremists know it.
So, cult-proof, radicalize-proof the kids in your life by not letting them isolate, not letting them believe they are not cherished, that they have no worth.
And if the kid comes from a family that has been marginalized, a whole family disconnected from the community, the job is harder. The community must do for that family what the teacher must do for the child: Include; listen; value. There is no other way to get them to include the community in their lives, to listen, to value the community.
It could be that the hardest part of this is to get past one’s own assumptions and judgements, one’s own prejudices against those who don’t fit in, who dress badly, who smell bad, who have visible ailments, who drink too much, who babble, who swear, who are angry, who are depressed… But if we all do just what little we can, if we can care, and show that we care, that is a beginning. If we will see them, at least, acknowledge their existence and their suffering, that is not nothing.
A penny at a time, a nest-egg is built; a stitch at a time, a whole garment is made.