It’s dinner time and you are wondering why your 17-year-old son is not yet at home. This has been happening lately and you also noticed that he’s not always at home, even on school days. Upon checking his room, you noticed some posters on the wall with symbols or foreign language that you’re not familiar with. His grades have dropped tremendously and his relationships towards his usual friends and siblings have changed. After a week, you received a call from the principal’s office and asking for your presence to discuss a grievous incident where your son has been involved — a gang turf.
We all see from movies what is the world of being involved in a gang — violence, drugs, sex, crime. The list goes on. What is more horrible and frightening is when we learn that our children are part or members of a gang.
The word gang is a slang term for a group of persons involved in organized crime activities. It’s an intricate organization with networks or sectors situated in different locations and tries to dominate and control everything — from politics, government, and the community. Gangsters have been around since the 17th century and continues to evolve as time moves on. Presently, there are thousands of gangs all over the United States and the worse is their members are getting younger and younger every day.
How to detect teenagers are involved in a gang
Children tend to change attitude and behavior when they start the puberty stage. Privacy is highly preferred and getting involved in social cliques is the main objective. However, it is critical to consider what’s normal and no longer healthy when it comes to their social relationships. The following are signs to help detect if teenagers are engaging in gangs or other disruptive groups.
- Going home late at night or staying out late even on school days. They tend to have “extra” curricular activities other than those they in school. When they come home at night, they immediately go straight to their room, lock their doors, and would never want to speak with anyone. During weekends, they have so called “meet ups”, people to see and have “other stuff” to do” that when you asked them what, they would just brush it off.
- A change in their fashion style and room interior decoration. When did he started wearing a bandana and lots of accessories? Why suddenly the interest of getting a tattoo or body piercings? There is something different in the way he walks, talk and use bodily gestures. And when you checked their rooms, to which they always lock or put a door sign “keep off”, you were surprised to see posters of gang-related materials hanging on the walls. If you are noticing these subtle changes, chances are he/she might not just be making a make-over or reinventing their own personalities. This may be the beginning that your son or daughter is imbibing a culture of a certain gang.
- Bringing home new found friends or meeting new friends that are not usual in their relations. Sure, they want to extend and grow their circle of friends. But are you sure who and where did they met them? Any parent would surely love to see their children mingling and making friends, however, there are certain instances that they are founding new interests in gangs and later did they know their children were already in deep trouble getting involved in gang related activities.
- Sudden interest in entrepreneurial schemes. Now it’s getting serious when you are seeing that they have a stash of money hidden in their room, possess expensive things that you did not remember buying it for them, and when you confront them about it, they would say it’s out of school allowance? Most gang members are involved in selling illicit drugs and other illegal merchandises. This is where they get this large sum of money.
- Increased signs of rebelliousness and getting involved in breaking the law. At first, it could be just a shoplifting incident in a convenience store, or a squabble in the streets with other gangs, leading up to major criminal activities like robbery, theft or even getting involved in a shooting incident.
Other signs that you need to include are:
- Grades and activities in school are getting compromised because of non-attendance and lack of interest.
- Signs of drug and alcohol abuse
- Sudden interest in the culture of certain gang like listening to their music, learning their lingo, and getting oneself a nickname.
- Avoidance in family gatherings preferred to be with his/her new found friends.
- Increased signs of being secretive and speaks in a hush tone when caught speaking to a telephone.
- Easily gets startled and may show signs of paranoia like being followed or not wanting to be seen in public with other persons.
It can be more horrifying to learn later on that our children are in deep trouble with gangs. The earlier we detect these in them, the earlier we can curtail and stop their involvement in gang related activities, because it can be very hard to let go or stay away from gangs once you have entered their realms.