Advice for parents
Be on the look-out for warning signs that suggest your child may be involved in a gang.
- Gang symbols: on schoolbooks, pencil cases, bags, bedroom posters and personal possessions.
- Clothing: young people wearing certain colours relating to specific gangs.
- Hand signals: sometimes hand signals are given by individuals to show which gang they are aligned.
- Postcodes: young people often align themselves to postcodes.
- A rise in skipping school.
- Sudden changes in your child’s selection of friends.
- An increased number of social groups with unusual ‘gang’ names your child is hanging around with.
- Your child may experience bullying and pressure to join a gang.
- They may be vague or secretive about their activities.
- Possessing relatively large sums of money or bringing expensive items home.
- Getting in trouble with the police.
- Be aware of the websites your child is viewing. Social networking sites can give access to images and words promoting gang culture.
- Chat rooms and texts can be used to bully young people into joining gangs.
- Rap music associated with gangs can be threatening and violent.
- Know what your children are listening to.
There are things you can do to help stop your child from being involved in gangs.
- Talk to your child and listen
- Encourage them to get involved in positive activities and to think about their future employment
- Get involved in your child’s school activities
- Know your child’s friends and their families
- Always know where your child is and who they are with
- Help them to cope with pressure and how to deal with conflict without use of violence
- Speak to them about the serious consequences that occur from violent or illegal behaviour. Help them to understand the dangers of being in a gang and find constructive alternative ways to use their time
- Keep lines of communication open
- Be aware of what your child is doing on the internet
- Look for ways of disciplining children that do not involve harshness, anger or violence
- Work with other parents and schools to watch their behaviour
- Contact local voluntary organisations that provide mentoring and other support for young people
- Talk about your child’s behaviour with their school and other parents
This leaflet, produced by the government, contains advice for parents and carers on what to do if you suspect your child is becoming involved in a gang, and also explains the reasons why young people might be tempted to join a gang.
Why do young people join street gangs?
Young people can join gangs for a number of reasons. They can join for:
- a sense of belonging
- power over other people
- money from crime
Gangs and the law
Although there are no laws banning gangs or gang membership, there are laws to prevent the criminal activities linked to gangs.
- It is illegal to have or carry drugs like cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.
- It is illegal to carry any knife if there is intent to use it as a weapon (even if it belongs to someone else).
- It is illegal to carry or keep a gun without a licence, including fake or replica guns.
- Police can (and will) search anyone they think may be carrying a gun or a knife.
- Police and school staff can also search young people for weapons at school.
- Offenders who are members of a gang could face longer sentences if they have to appear in court.