Children and gangs: Key questions and help for parents and guardians

There are around 27,000 child gang members in England, a new report estimates Credit: PA

Around 27,000 children are thought to be members of a gang in England, according to a major report by the Children's Commissioner.

Here is some of the advice available for parents, guardians and friends on how to help and protect children:

  • How can I know if a child is in a gang?

The charity Gangsline encourages parents and guardians to be aware and feel confident of what to look out for in children when it comes to potential gang involvement.

Gangsline suggests parents and guardians consider four questions:

  • Do they look or act like a gang member? This could include hand signs, graffiti on school books and clothing, temporary or permanent tattoos, specific clothing or styles and wearing specific colours. Bandannas and hats are also common symbols of gang loyalty.

  • Do they hang out with peers that you do not feel happy about?

  • Do they have unexplained cash or expensive jewellery, clothing, or gadgets?

  • Do they miss their curfew for no good reason?

They can also look out for additional warning signs such as:

  • Withdrawing from family with an accompanying change in demeanour.

  • Consistently breaking parental rules.

  • Developing and unusual desire for privacy and secrecy.

  • Using hand signs while with friends or practising them at home.

  • Unexplained injuries.

  • Using alcohol or drugs.

  • Bringing weapons into the home.

How can I prevent them joining a gang?

  • 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 or use any kind of finger or sign language in a public place.

  • Attend any party or social event organised by gangs or their associates.

  • Take part in any graffiti activity or hang around where graffiti is present.

If the child would prefer to speak to a mentor then they can contact the Gangsline helpline on 0800 032 9538. Community organisations or youth clubs can also provide support.

How can I help a friend in a gang?

Childline counsellors are on hand for young people who might be worried someone they know is in a gang.

The charity also advises encouraging the person to contact them at or Gangsline.

The NSPCC also offers advice on its helpline 0808 800 5000.

If there are concerns that a person might be in danger and needs urgent help then contact the police.

More information can be found at: