Racists are trying to recruit. Protect your children online.
That's the message from one local mom who says white supremacists attempted to lure her young sons into the dark world of hate groups
The I-Team sat down with the Malibu mother to find out how her seemingly well-adjusted, middle class boys could have fallen prey.
"I saw an image of Hitler come by, and I saw he double tapped it to like it really fast," Joanna Schroeder, the Malibu mom, said.
Schroeder saw images of swastikas and Nazi helmets scrolling through her son's social media.
"And that's when I said, 'Wait, let me see the phone,'" Schroeder said.
What her kids, ages 11 and 14 years old, thought were just jokes, she says, were memes with racist, sexist and anti-Semitic messages.
"When I think of my sweet boys, these very kind good citizens being desensitized to something like the holocaust; it's horrifying," Schroeder said. "It's like being punched in the gut."
Shocked and motivated to tell others, Schroeder sent a precautionary tweet that soon went viral.
Her post was retweeted more than 81,000 times.
As a former recruiter for white supremacist groups, Tony Mcaleer, too, was influenced as a teenager and knows how easily young people can be recruited.
"Thanks to the internet, these people have a main line right into your child's bedroom," Mcaleer said. "Neo-Nazi groups, Aryan Nations, White Aryan Resistance and such. I was in there for about 15 years."
And he says he persuaded others to follow him.
The FBI is tracking a significant increase in hate crimes with the victims largely women and people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. In some cases, the hate escalates to violence, including a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Investigators say the suspects in several mass shootings, including the El Paso Walmart shooting, the synagogue shooting near San Diego and the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh expressed white supremacist views online.
"What I see is a deadly combination," anti-terrorism expert Erroll Southers says hate groups in the United States are going where kids are comfortable and not always supervised.
"When they are exposed to it, it's almost like a rabbit hole," Southers said. "And once they start going down that rabbit hole, they'll keep going."
Mcaleer says he finally left what he calls "the movement." After becoming a father, he created the group "Life After Hate" to help others escape.
"Parents have to be having these conversations with their children before someone else does," Mcaleer said.
"If they're not doing it by the time we get there, it's likely that the FBI is going to be doing it," Sammy Rangel, executive director of Life After Hate, said.
Schroder says, along with the images, there are certain words to listen out for: "trigger" and "snowflake"
Trigger is used in memes to describe when people are too sensitive. "Beta male" is used to point at someone who lacks masculinity.
"If you don't know what they are, you should Google them and learn about them, so that you can say to your kids, 'Well, you know here's where that comes from and here's how it hurts people,'" Schroeder said.
Hate Symbols Database: Click Here
Parent Questions: 25 Alternatives to "How Was Your Day?" Click Here