As parents, there’s nothing that you want more than to ensuring that your child grows up with a bright future. However, with the rise in gang activity and recruitment of children as young as 11 or 12, the bright future that you wish for your child might be end up becoming just a dream. One of the main misconceptions is that only boys can be involved in gangs, but that’s not true at all.
With gangs in Malaysia becoming more and more violent and open with their dealings, it’s no wonder that more and more children are being convinced or cajoled into joining them. By participating in these gangs, they put themselves in potentially dangerous and difficult situations, which could end up with them being injured, incarcerated or even dead. In order to help you prevent your child from walking down the wrong path, here are 12 signs that you should take note of to identify if your child is considering or might have joined a gang.
1. Sudden change in attitude
One of the most telling signs when it comes to identifying if your child might have joined a gang is a sudden change in attitude. This can be expressed in a variety of ways, like having a sudden dislike to people of authority like teachers, becoming more violent or angry, likes to talk back and argue when you advise them, and many more. If they were the type that used to share their lives with you and has suddenly become more secretive and withdrawn, this could be a sign as well. These changes in attitude are an indicative sign that your child might be venturing down the wrong path.
2. Decline in academic performance
If your child has always excelled in their studies, or have always been interested in their studies, but have recently done a 180 and are now showing an decline in academic performance, your should start paying attention. This could be due to a variety of reasons, and can be indicative of joining a gang.
3. Strange injuries
This is another major sign. If your child is coming home with unexplained injuries, this could be a sign that they might have joined a gang. Signs of injuries in places of note include bruised knuckles, which could be derived from punching, as well as other bruises and cuts throughout the body. These wounds could be caused by gang activity.
4. Likes to stay out late without reason
If your child has suddenly taken a liking to staying out till the wee hours without providing you a reason, it could mean that they are up to no good. It is not advisable to allow your child to stay out late as it exposes them to a myriad of dangers like being kidnapped, being hit by a car, and many more, especially with our society becoming increasingly dangerous.
5. Out with the old friends, in with the new
Do you ever wonder who your child is spending their time with nowadays? Have you noticed that the children they surround themselves with are not the ones that they used to bring over or play with? When in a gang, they are promised companionship and camaraderie, which can be attractive to many children who might be having trouble making friends. Upon making these new friends, they might choose them in favor of their old ones due to a difference in thinking and attitude.
6. Suddenly has money to buy things / has a lot of new things
Another way gangs attract children is by promising them money, or buying them things they like, such as video games or new toys. If you notice your child having new things that weren’t purchased by you, or that he suddenly has more money to spend, it’s time to get questioning.
7. Change in style
Gangs often represent themselves in numbers or colors. So if your child has suddenly taken to always wearing items of clothing or accessories in a particular color, or likes to wear shirts that has a specific number, it might be a sign that your child could be in a gang.
8. Suspected drug / alcohol use / Picked up smoking
Another thing that could happen if your child has joined a gang is that they might pick up drugs, alcohol or smoking. This usually arises due to peer pressure in order to help them fit in. If you suspect your child might be undergoing drug or alcohol abuse, or might have started smoking, it might be time to intervene. A recent investigation showed that many secondary school students in Malaysia were tested positive for drug use due to infiltration by gangs. Don’t let your child fall victim to this phenomenon.
9. Social media posting
With social media being a norm in the younger generations, it is increasingly easy for gangs to recruit their members and post about what they’re doing on social media. Monitor your child’s social media posts. If the content they post is out of character or of violent nature like hate posts and so on, it might be time to have a talk with your child.
Gangs use graffiti as a form of communication among one another. Be it tagging their territory, or as an invitation to a fight or to settle issues, it is definitely dangerous territory, not to mention illegal as well. How do you determine if your child might be taking part in this? Look for signs of paint on their hands and clothes. If they are tagging, they would also have spray paint cans and other tools like stencils containing the gang symbols in their possession.
11. In possession of weapons
As a form of initiation, gangs require the members to commit a variety of crimes, including stealing, injuring people, and even killing them. Not only that, they are always involved in gang disputes that require them to fight. As such, if you notice your child possessing weapons like knives, knuckledusters or even bats, it might be a sign that they are involved in something dangerous.
12. Has gang tattoos
Of course, it goes without saying that just because someone has tattoos, doesn’t mean that they are in a gang. In fact, I’m a fan of tattoos myself. However, if your child has gotten tattoos that could represent a gang, it is a pretty big indicator that they could be involved.
All in all, it is crucial for parents to play their role in ensuring that their children do not go down the wrong path, and to educate them if they stray. If your child shows any of these signs, even if they’re not in gangs, they are signs that you need to pay attention to as your child might be facing other problems as well. Pay attention and be vigilant. Take note of any changes in your child and make sure to show them that they are always loved and valued.
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