Typically, teenagers at some point in their life will rebel against authority. This is to be expected, but if it continues to get progressively worse this could be a sign of a child involved in gangs. Now that youth gangs are more widespread, parents need to be aware of gang activity in their community, so they know what to look out for with their own child. What differentiates a gang from other teen social groups (like clubs or cliques) is involvement in criminal activity. If you’re unsure about the friends your child keeps company with and how they spend their free time, ask yourself these questions:
Does my teen “look” or “act” like a gang member? Hand signs, graffiti (e.g., on notebooks, book bags or clothing), temporary or permanent tattoos, specific clothing styles, and wearing specific colors, bandannas and hats are some common symbols of gang loyalty.
Does my teen have low self-esteem or think of himself as “the kind of person that gets into trouble”?
Does my teen hang out with peers that I don’t feel good about?
Is my teen uninterested in school and school activities? Has school performance slipped?
Does my teen have unexplained cash or expensive jewelry, clothing, stereo or video equipment?
Does my teen miss his curfew for “no good reason”?
Your kid's clothing preferences change dramatically. Your kid suddenly insists on wearing a specific color or a logo. Wearing sagging pants down to the hips, Wearing an excessive amount of gold jewelry. Using hand signals (gang signs), begins using gang slang. They may get a new tattoo, permanent or henna. They may have unexplained injuries.
They may start withdrawing from school, family members, and possibly even their friends. They may talk about gang life, gangster movies, gangster rap, in an idolized way. They may have new friends or stop hanging out with their old friends or they may not let you meet any of their friends. They may start spending a lot of time away from home. They may start to use nicknames or refer to their friends by nicknames instead of their real names. They may have a sudden affluence (money, clothing, etc.) and have friends who use tobacco, alcohol or drugs. They are hanging around with known or suspected gang members or they admit to gang membership
They may develop a sudden rebellious attitude with parents and teachers. Excessive disciplinary referrals, grades may drop, they become difficult to deal with, argumentative. They may get into trouble with the law.
They may develop an unusual desire for privacy. They will not let you into their bedroom. Does not want you to meet their friends.
Gangster music or gang insignias on their phones and music lists, guns and violence. Likes to watch gang related movies. They may start to use drugs or alcohol. They may have a Lack of hobbies, interests or sports activities.
If you suspect that your child is involved in a gang, you should act immediately. The longer that a person remains in the gang, the less chance that they will get out. Gang members often end up in prison or end up being killed. Denial that there is a problem or not dealing with the problem in the hopes that it will go away will only make the matter worse.
None of these warning signs alone is sufficient for predicting gang involvement, aggression or tendencies toward violence. Also, it can be detrimental to use these signs as a checklist against which to measure children.
Early warning signs are just that, indicators that a child may need our help and guidance. These are behavioral and emotional signs that, when considered in context, can signal a distraught child.
Early warning signs provide us with a means to examine our concerns and address the child's needs. Early warning signs allow us to get help for the child before problems escalate.
Not all gang-related violence is drug-related, In fact, probably a majority are simple fights over every day events that go over the top. The primary sources of conflict are primeval: turf, status, respect, revenge. An instigating incident can be as minor as a bump or even making eye contact with the wrong person in the wrong frame of mind.