How can I talk to teenagers about this?

Young people may be curious about gangs, and may know of peers who are part of a gang in their local area. They may turn to the internet to find out more about them. The way members of gangs portray themselves online may seem glamorous to some teenagers, for example, if they share images of money, expensive items of clothing or technology. It can be easy to comment or engage with a gang online by commenting on their profiles or by ‘liking’ or sharing something they post. Gangs who also produce music may post videos of their music that can appear exciting and aspirational.

These online portrayals of glamor, money and excitement may put a young person at risk of seeking out further gang involvement, or becoming vulnerable to recruitment.


Top tips:

  • Set a good example. As a member of the children’s workforce, you are well placed to act as a role model in a young person’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 young person 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 young person how they found this content. Did they actively search for it? Were they sent a link from a friend? Are they under pressure to do something with this content? Talk to them about how it has made them feel, and reassure they can come to you with any worries they have.
  • Give children the time and space to discuss issues such as gangs, social media and violence within their local communities. It may bring up questions you can answer, concerns you can follow up, and topics to focus on in further discussion. Feeling listened to is an important emotion for children to feel in order to open up.
  • 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 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.
  • Talk to children about using online tools to block or report any illegal or threatening or inappropriate they may see online. Remind them this is an anonymous service. Encourage them to speak to a trusted adult, and explain how the reporting process in school or via the police could help them.
  • Make families aware of the parental controls available on devices, platforms and internet service providers. Visit Internet matters for some helpful guides to share.
  • Don’t assume that only boys or children from low income house-holds are vulnerable to gang recruitment. Social media is a highly accessible medium through which recruitment can occur.
  • Signpost to support networks for children and young people. You find a list of helplines and suport charities on Childent's 'Need help?' pages here.
  • Follow safeguarding procedures. If you are at all concerned that a child in your care is involved in, or at risk of 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.