How can I talk to children and pre-teens about this?

It is important to talk to children about staying safe online as soon as they start using technology. Children could stumble across concerning, graphic or even violent content linked to gang activity by clicking links sent by friends or siblings or by following a peer who knows a gang member/is part of a gang themselves. They might also actively look for this content online if they are curious, or have friends or siblings who either know someone involved in a gang or who is in a gang themselves. Children could also hear of incidents involving local gangs in their communities and search online to find out more. However a child accesses this content it can leave them feeling worried, scared or upset, and may lead to questions about violence and criminal activity. Technology may also be used to recruit younger children into gangs through the offer of money and protection.

Top tips:

  • Talk to children regularly about what they like to do online, and what worries them. This can open up conversations, and shows children that adults are interested in their online lives and want to listen to them. It can offer opportunities to respond to the actual concerns children may have in a way that avoids introducing issues they are not yet aware of, or sparking curiosity to look online for more.
  • Set a good example. As a member of the children’s workforce, you are well placed to act as a role model in a child’s life. Approach difficult situations or conflict without the use of anger or fear, so the children in your care learn to do the same.
  • Remain calm. If you learn of a child accessing upsetting or illegal content online, or content you suspect is linked to gang activity, take a curious and calm approach. Becoming angry or upset may put them off from telling you more. Ask the child how they found this content. Did they actively search for it? Were they sent a link from a friend? Talk to them about how it has made them feel, and reassure they can come to you with any worries they have.
  • Give children strategies to use for dealing with anything upsetting or violent online. These could include turning off the screen of a device or turning it over whilst going to ask an adult for help.
  • Give children strategies to deal with unexpected or unwanted contact online. Talk to them about the importance of only accepting friend requests from people they know and trust in the offline world, and how to block or report messages from people they do not know or do not trust. Explain to children they can always talk to a trusted adult like a teacher or parent to help them to manage this. You can report cases of suspected grooming to CEOP.
  • Make families aware of the parental controls available on devices, platforms and internet service providers. Visit Internet Matters for some helpful guides to share.
  • Follow safeguarding procedures: If you are at all concerned that a child in your care is involved in gang violence or criminal exploitation, tell someone straight away. Ensure that you are familiar with reporting procedures in your workplace and that confidentiality is not promised to the child in question. Report immediately to the designated person, for example the Designated Safeguarding Lead, so that the correct steps are taken from the outset. Ensure that the child's own words are used and are not changed in any way. Offer the child or young person in question the opportunity to accompany you when you make your report, to be part of the process.