Know the facts
Before you talk to your child about gangs, you'll need to make sure you know what you're talking about. It's important to understand why young people are drawn to gangs in the first place, and you'll need to know what the law says.
Know the signs
There are warning signs to look out for which could suggest that your child is involved with a gang. Things like a change of appearance, new slang words, new friends and even falling out with old friends could all be significant.
What you can do
To help prevent your child getting involved with a gang, it's important to be open and talk to them.
If you think your child is already in a gang, it may be harder to get them to talk about it but there are ways to approach the subject.
Why young people join street gangs
Young people can join a gang for:
- a sense of belonging
- power over other people
- money from crime
Being in a gang - the fantasy and reality
Children may think that being in a gang will give them an exciting lifestyle. Being in a gang puts children and young people at more risk of:
- committing crime
- dealing or taking drugs
- ending up in prison
- being a victim of violence or even death
Gangs and the law
There aren't laws banning gangs or gang membership, but there are laws to prevent the criminal activity of gangs. It's against the law to:
- have or carry cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy are illegal to have, or carry
- have or keep a gun without a licence, including fake or replica guns
The law is strict on knife possession. It is illegal to carry a knife in public without a reasonable explanation. You cannot carry a knife:
- for someone else
- for protection
- with no intention of using it
- Knife crime
Getting a criminal record
Your child could get arrested for carrying a gun or a knife. They could go to court and get a criminal record that will affect the rest of their life. Having a criminal record can prevent people from getting a job, going to university or college, or even travelling abroad.
If your child is in a gang
You will need to talk to your child but this could be a difficult conversation – they may be scared or unwilling to talk about it. But it is important that they know that you want to listen and support them.
It’s also important to tell your child they have a choice and they don't have to follow the crowd.
Risks of being in a gang
When talking to your child about the risks of being in a gang, your approach will be more effective if you:
- stay calm and rational even if you're very upset
- ask questions, rather than making accusations or rash statements
- listen carefully to what they say without interrupting them
- really try to understand the situation from their point of view and why they have joined the gang
- ask them what you can do to help, rather than telling them what they have to do
- point out the risks and consequences of carrying, or worse still using a gun or a knife (remember that many people who are hurt by guns or knives have their own weapon used against them)
- try to come up with an agreement on what to do next
- work with them to find alternatives to being in the gang