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Gangs and youth violence

There are not any definite signs that show a child has joined a gang and it's unlikely that they'll tell you.

Parents can look out for their child:

  • spending time with people you don't know and aren't sure about
  • going missing from home or school
  • getting into trouble at school
  • having new clothes or other items that you think they can't afford
  • getting involved with crimes such as robbery, violence, drug dealing and sexual exploitation
  • having unexplained injuries
  • losing interest in their existing hobbies
  • becoming secretive
  • not telling you where they have been or why they have returned late

None of these signs mean for certain that a child has joined a gang. If you're unsure, you can call the NSPCC helpline to talk through your concerns.

It’s important to be aware that gangs post information on the internet. They may have video clips on YouTube or profiles on social media sites which feature their members.

Why young people join gangs

Young people may join gangs for:

  • a sense of belonging
  • status
  • excitement
  • protection
  • fear
  • power
  • peer pressure
  • money
  • family problems

What it could involve for boys and girls

Children and young people involved with, or on the edges of, gangs may be victims of violence. They may be pressured into doing things for the gang, such as stealing or carrying drugs or weapons.

Girls who join or are linked to gangs are also at risk of sexual exploitation, and may be pressured into having sex with several gang members. It can be harder to spot a girls' involvement in gangs and a lot of abuse they experience goes on behind closed doors.

If you're worried a girl you know is being affected by gangs, call the NSPCC Helpline or Medway Children's Advice and Duty Service 01634 334 466.

What parents can do to help a child involved in a gang

Leaving a gang or attempting to leave a gang can be a really scary prospect. A young person may be worried or frightened about their own safety or what will happen to their family or friends if they leave.

Many young people also feel part of a family when they're in a gang, and can be worried about losing this.

If they're thinking about joining a gang, or are already heavily involved, children and young people need help and support.

You can help by:

  • talking to them and making sure they know you’re there to listen and help them, even if they are worried or ashamed of something they've done
  • explaining the risks involved with gangs - children may think that gangs are exciting and glamorous so it is important to talk about the reality

The NSPCC helpline can give you details of organisations local to you that can help.