Sociologists have observed a marked increase in violence among youth and their gang related crimes in the United States in the past decade. The U.S Department of Justice estimates that there are over 23,000 teen gangs with more than 600,000 members. These numbers are too alarming to be taken lightly. No doubt teenage is the time when children are stretching their boundaries and exploring new avenues. During this time if they are not given a guiding hand and constant encouragement from parents, they may join youth gangs in search of a leader figure to look up to, a place to belong, and finally their own identity. Parents can take steps to ensure that their teen does not fall prey to gangs.
Finding Home Away From Home
There are several factors which play out in teens’ life, driving them away from their families. However, it will be unfair to place the entire blame on the parents. Studies have shown that there are psychological, social, economic and cultural factors that push several youths towards gangs. Yuba County Sheriff’s Department in California provided some basic information about youth gangs to county’s residents. They outlined different reasons behind teens’ decision to join youth gangs. Among them is lack of parents’ attention, in search for protection and identity, financial gain, drugs, power, peer pressure and several other less recurring factors.
In most cases – usually in case of uninvolved parents – parents are unaware of their teens’ activities and finds out when they are taken into custody by police for the first time. But that can be too late sometimes! Therefore, in order to keep your child away from this menace, look for following signs in your child’s behavior:
- Decline in grades
- Over aggressiveness
- Some sort of graffiti or tattoo
- Wearing certain style or color of clothes
- Breaking curfew
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Friendship with juvenile delinquents
- Any weapon in their possession
- Extra expenditures
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention under the U.S Department of Justice outlines that a youth gang is an organized group of youths between the age of 10 and 22 years. However, other researches carried out by the Justice department have placed the age between 14 and 24 years. It is also a fact that secretly teens look out for guidance and protection that only a parent can offer, and when they don't find it then end up turning to gangs. The responsibility lies with the parents to lay out the blue print for their teens, so that they do not turn to outsiders for understanding and direction.
Preventing The Fall
Just as parents make physical boundaries around their toddlers for their safety and protection, they should also create boundaries for their teens’ protection. Awareness is the key to prevent your teen from falling into an abyss of crime. Be aware of your child’s activities. The older they get the more freedom they seek. But you have to be vigilant about their activities and whereabouts. Communication is necessary in gaining trust and building a bond with your teen. Tell them about your problems and ask for their advice. This will help in gaining trust and developing a bond with your teen. Never shy from discussing things with them. Finally, communicate your fears and suspicions to them the moment you notice sign of unusual behavior in your teen.
However, where parents come short, they should turn to the community they belong to to help hold the teen from slipping into crime. The pre-dominant members of a community are parents who are always on a look out for their kids. Therefore, if they come across any signs of gang activity in the neighbor’s teen, they should inform his/her parents; or in case of negligent parents, they should contact social security and the local police.