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There are many reasons why young people feel the pressure to join gangs.

They might be bored and looking for excitement or power. It could be linked to another issue, like those covered in this guide.

Gangs make them feel protected and not alone. But it can lead to violence or other risks such as bullying or drug and alcohol abuse.

It is not illegal to be in a gang but it is important to teach children when being part of a gang becomes a risk. 

What are the signs my child is part of a dangerous gang?

Gangsline has this advice:

Have you ever questioned and second guessed yourself the friends your child keeps company with? Or how they spend their free time?

If you answered YES then take a look at the following questions:

  • Does your child look or act like a gang member? Hand signs, graffiti (e.g., on notebooks, bookbags or clothing), temporary or permanent tattoos, specific clothing styles, and wearing specific colours, bandanas and hats are some common symbols of gang loyalty.

  • Does your child hang out with peers that you don’t feel good about?

  • Is your child uninterested in school and school activities? Has school performance slipped?

  • Does your child have unexplained cash or expensive jewellery, clothing, stereo or video equipment

  • Does your child miss his/her curfew for no good reason?

Below is a list of actions and appearances to help you identify possible gang involvement in your child.

It is your responsible to be vigilant and question your child. You should be concerned if your child presents the following:

  • Admits to gang involvement.
  • Is obsessed with one particular colour of clothing or shows a desire for a particular logo.
  • Wears excessive jewellery with distinctive designs and may wear it only on either the right or left side of the body.
  • Is obsessed with gangster-influenced music, videos and movies to the point of imitation.
  • Withdraws from family with an accompanying change in demeanour;
  • Associates with undesirables and breaks parental rules consistently.
  • Develops an unusual desire for privacy and secrecy and may completely rearrange living quarters to create more privacy.
  • Uses hand signs while with friends and practices them at home;
  • Physical injury (such as being beaten) and then child lies about the events surrounding the injury;
  • Peculiar drawings or language on school books (may appear later as tattoos or brands);
  • Possible use of alcohol and drugs with attitude change.
  • Changing friends.
  • Has been getting arrested.
  • Seen a weapon in the house or seen your child with a weapon.

Please be mindful not all young people displaying these warning signs are gang members, therefore it is important to review the facts and other factors involved.

How can I talk to my child about the risks of being a part of a dangerous gang?

  • Use TV, books or the news as a platform to begin the conversation - gang culture is a common topic in the media. Comment that it is OK if they ever found themselves in a gang, and there is help to leave one.

Gangsline has this advice:


  • Associate with known gang members or ‘wannabe’ gang members
  • Identify or communicate with gangs
  • Hang out near or where gangs congregate
  • Approach strangers in cars who appear to want information or directions
  • Wear gang-affiliated clothing where gangs are known to gather or pass through
  • Use gang associated code words
  • Attend any party or social event sponsored by gangs or their associates
  • Take part in any graffiti activity or hang around where graffiti is present
  • Use any kind of finger or sign language in a public place.


  • Educate your child about the consequences of being in a gang.
  • Highlight the importance of achieving good grades in school.
  • Spend quality time with your children.
  • Show interest by getting involved in your child's school activities/ hobbies.
  • Establish rules, set limits and be consistent, firm and fair in discipline.
  • Respect your child's feelings and attitudes and help them develop self-esteem.
  • Be a good listener and try to understand their mindset.
  • Listen carefully to your children's choice of words.
  • Communicate with them about their concerns and fears.
  • Watch closely for negative influences.
  • Try to get to know your child's friends and their parents.
  • Learn to lean on other people and talk about your concerns, sometimes it is hard to handle and balance our stresses on our own.
  • Improve your own self-esteem so your children can model themselves after the most important 'role model', YOU.
  •  Take advantage of your local community facilities by researching youth clubs they could attend. 

You may have a child that will not openly express their thoughts and feelings to you, we have found that having a mentor or someone unrelated can open the door for them to talk to someone rather than suffer in silence.

If you would like a mentor for your child contact the helpline on 0800 032 9538.  

Where else can I or my child turn for help? 

  • Watch this short NSPCC video about protecting a loved one from gangs:

  • Gangsline offers free advice and support from ex-gang members on 0800 032 9538
  • Children can contact Childline for free 24/7 for confidential advice on 0800 1111
  • Parents can call the NSPCC helpline for more advice on 0808 800 5000 while children can ring 0800 11111
  • Call 999 if you think the person is in danger and needs urgent help

© Produced by Adele Norris in association with Eagle Radio