As your child gets older and becomes more independent they may start to go out with their friends more and meet new people. Most people are safe and good to be around, and making new friends is a healthy part of growing up.
Just because your child hangs out in a group doesn't mean they are in a gang. Teens often find safety in numbers by staying with a particular group of friends, and usually they like to avoid trouble. Most young people don't want anything to do with gangs.
You may have noticed on the news there are more stories about gang activity and violence in Norfolk. Understandably, you may worry that your child might be pressured in to joining a gang. It is good to be aware and help protect your child by recognising the possible signs of being in a gang and getting further help and support if you need it.
Why Do Young People Join Gangs?
Young people may become involved in gangs for many reasons, including;
Be on the look-out for warning signs that suggest your child may be involved in a gang;
If you are suspicious that your child is involved with a gang, it doesn't mean they are for certain. Make sure you have an open mind - ask questions and listen without accusing them directly.
What is County Lines?
County Lines is a term used by the police to describe gangs who bring illegal drugs from bigger cities to other parts of the UK. In Norfolk, the bigger city is usually London. Most of the activity is arranged via mobile phone 'lines'.
Young people aged 14-17 are most likely to be targeted by criminal groups but there are reports of seven year olds being 'groomed' into county lines.
Primary school children are seen as easy targets because they're less likely to get caught. The grooming might start with them being asked to 'keep watch' but it soon changes to them being forced to stash weapons, money, or to carry drugs.
County Lines includes ‘Gang’ belonging that some young people find attractive. This can feel like being part of a family and the gang can give a false sense of importance and feeling of being a part of something.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from or your background, children from any community can be groomed into county lines. However, those from poor households, who often skip school or have problems at home may be more at risk.
What Can You Do?
There are things you can do to help stop your child from getting involved in gangs;
If Your Child is Already Involved
If your child is involved with a gang they are probably frightened and they may find it difficult to talk about. Make it clear that you are here to listen and help them.
The NCPCC has a gangs helpline and information.
You may like to show your son or daughter the Childline website, which has a section on gangs aimed at young people.
If you’re really worried, you can contact Norfolk police on 101 for advice.
Social media is often a big part of a young person's life and it can often feel that they are glued to their phones. As a parent/carer if you are worried about who your child is contacting on their phone, talk to them. You can always check who they are messaging.
It can be hard to understand all of the current social media platforms, so if you need to talk about your young person's internet use or are worried about who they are talking to online, you can always contact us for advice and guidance.
Child Exploitation is a danger to an increasing number of young people. We can all play a part in helping children and young people stay safe, and help them learn how to protect themselves from others. You can find out more by taking this new online training module. This short course will help you learn:
Once you’ve finished the module, why not take some time to think about the issues raised, or have a conversation with a child or young person you help to look after. You could also show them Tricky Friends to help start the conversation.
The NCPCC is a registered charity fighting to end criminal exploitation of children in the UK. They have advice on;
We all have a duty to protect children and young people from harm. If you have any concerns about a child or young person in Norfolk it is always best to share them.
If you think a child is in immediate danger contact the police on 999.
If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone. Emergency SMS is part of the standard 999 service which has been designed specifically for people with hearing loss or difficulty with speech.
If a child is not in immediate danger but at risk of harm contact the Norfolk Children's Advice and Duty Service (CADS) on 0344 800 8020. Children's Services will listen to your call. They may act immediately to keep a child safe and they also work with families to offer support at difficult times.
You can also contact a member of the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.