Youth gang involvement is a growing problem. Following on from our previous blog: Why do people join gangs?, this article will examine how you can know if a child is a gang member. The thought that your child may be affiliated with a gang is extremely upsetting and worrying. However, it is important to look out for the signs of gang membership so that you can take positive steps to prevent their interest in gangs.
The reasons why a young person joins a gang have been discussed previously and tend to vary. Generally the terms ‘pushed’ or ‘pulled’ apply. A youngster may be pulled into joining a gang because they don’t know what being a gang member really involves. They may be influenced by the social and material aspects of being in a gang — the sense of belonging, access to money and other material benefits. Media and rap music often promote gangs or gang life as being glamourous. On the other hand, some young people are pushed or coerced into joining a gang. They may come from a deprived, often single-parent, household and the gang provides a readymade family and supplies them with things they feel they are missing at home. However, studies have shown that gang members display higher rates of crime and drug use than non-gang members.
There are a number of signs to look out for if you are concerned that your child is in a gang:
- Is your child/student hanging around with other youths who are in (or associate with) local gangs?
- Is your child getting into trouble at school and/or with the police? Are you noticing signs of delinquent behaviour?
- Has their conduct noticeably changed, for example, withdrawing from family, being secretive or becoming unruly and breaking their curfew?
- Are they listening to gangster-style or gangsta rap music, or have they been watching gangsta rap movies and videos online? This is where parents/teachers need to be aware of their social media usage and their online presence needs to be monitored.
- Are they wearing specific colours or certain brands/logos that match with those of the people they are hanging out with?
If any of the above behaviours are ringing alarm bells and you recognise them in your own child, you may have cause for concern. It is important for you to take steps to address any possible association with gangs. Seeking advice from organisations that deal with gangs and gang involvement can help, as can simply talking to and being there for your child. In our next article we will look in more detail at the steps you can take to prevent youths from joining gangs as well as ways of helping young people leave gangs.