What You Can Do

If you are worried that your child may likely become involved in a gang or already has done so, there are a number of ways to decrease the likelihood and protect your son or daughter. The main reason that teenagers decide to join a gang is to find a place of belonging and worth, as well as for something to do. Oftentimes, teenagers are simply bored and are looking for an activity and social outlet, and gangs serve just that purpose. To combat this, keep your son or daughter involved in extracurricular activities. Sports teams can provide the comradeship that many teens seek in a positive, productive environment. Not only will the individual be in a safer environment but they will also learn teamwork and other valuable skills. Arts programs and student leadership activities can serve a similar purpose, while teaching incredibly pertinent skills or developing a hobby or skill.

While extracurricular activities can be a great venue for teenagers to express themselves and release pent up emotions, energy, and feelings, there is no replacement for spending time with the family. The best anti-gang measure that you can take is to spend time with your children and let them know that you are there for them. Gangs provide support and companionship, but families can do the exact same thing. Just knowing that they are unconditionally loved will give your teenager more confidence and motivation. Having the support that family provides can be a major deterrent from joining a gang.

It is also important to be aware of gang activity in your area. If there are particularly active gangs in your proximity avoid their hang outs and do not wear their gang colors. It is not uncommon for an unfortunate teenager to wear a certain color and be confused for a rival gang member. Sadly, far too many teenagers become the victim of gang violence whether or not they are associated with a gang. Knowing about the local gangs will allow you and your teenager to know what to avoid in terms of colors and signs, but it also allows you to speak out against local activity. You can join an existing group in the area that works to rid the community of gangs. If none exists, establish a Neighborhood Watch or talk to the police about gang graffiti and activity.

It is important to point out that carrying a firearm is not advisable. While it may provide an appearance of safety and a mental feeling of power, guns usually just escalate conflicts. Also, make sure that your teenager does not carry a weapon with him or her. If someone is in danger or attacked and chooses to brandish a weapon, this often causes the assailant to do the same and can lead to far greater physical harm to everyone involved.