Community safety for your child
A child or young person can be exposed to lots of different influences when they leave their home. For example:
- Friendship groups and peers
- School friends and their neighbourhood
- Online through phones, tablets and computers
In most cases, these influences are positive for a child and bring them opportunities to socialise, learn and thrive.
However, in some situations, children and young people can be at risk of increased harm from these influences and they may become involved in activities in their community that put them at risk of danger. Professionals call this ‘contextual safeguarding.’
Risky activities children might be involved in
Some of the risky activities children or young people might be involved in are:
- Involvement with gangs
- Missing from home, education or care
- Risky relationships
- Harmful sexual behaviours
- Inappropriate use of social media
- Alcohol use
- Drug use
- Extreme views or beliefs about politics or religion (radicalisation)
What could this mean for your child
Children of any age could be affected by risky activities, but it is most commonly seen in adolescence (aged 10-19 years of age). Children even younger than this may have access to smartphones, giving them opportunities to interact with friends and sometimes strangers on the internet - this includes social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.
Part of growing up
Risk taking behaviour is part of growing up. Pushing boundaries, seeking new experiences and widening peer groups is part of normal development.
But sometimes this can be dangerous. It is important parents and carers understand risks and know how to identify them.Keeping safe
Signs your child might be involved
These are some signs your child might be involved in these activities:
- Changes in emotional well-being such as becoming withdrawn, isolated or displaying mood swings
- Suspicions of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
- Changes in behaviour such as appearing secretive, staying out late at night or going missing from school or home
- Reluctance to talk or share information about their whereabouts
- Difficulty contacting your child on their phone
- Relationships with controlling or older individuals
- Meeting unfamiliar adults
- Any association with gangs
- The use of drugs and alcohol
- Having money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
There could be other signs that parents and carers recognise are not usual for their child which may be a concern to them.
It is important to remember it is not your child’s fault if they are involved in risky activities. Children and young people are often targeted and recruited by people who may try to take advantage of, threaten or harm them.
Other things to look out for
Look out for the following things in your community or neighbourhood:
- Lone children from outside of the area
- Unknown or suspicious looking characters hanging around
- Individuals with multiple mobile phones or tablets or ‘SIM cards’
- Young people with more money or expensive clothing than they can account for
What to do if you are worried about your child
The best way to understand community risk and safety is to show an interest in what your child does when they are out of the home or when they are online.
Have you ever thought about where your child goes when they are out in the community, and wondered if it feels safe for them? Do you know what content they might be accessing on their phones or computers? Have you ever asked your child about this?
For some parents and carers, this can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to ask if you don’t understand something. It may take some time but creating a safe space for your children to talk with you about their experiences in the community and their online activities can be a good start.
Conversations with your child can help to tip the balance towards your child being safer in their community.
If you are worried, talk about your worries with a member of staff at your child’s school or with your GP. They will be able to listen to your concerns and help direct you to the most appropriate support. The useful links on this page provide more information on services that may be able to offer help and support to you and your family.
Further help and support
Below are some links and resources for parents and carers with information and ideas on how to keep their children safe in the community.
- NSPCC - working to prevent abuse, help rebuild children's lives and support families. Offering a free and confidential reporting and advice line
- Childline - a free, private and confidential service where children and young people can talk about anything
- WithYouth - young people's digital wellbeing service, with services and resources to help with mental health issues
- The Sandbox - online mental health support for children and young people
- StreetSafe - a pilot service for anyone to anonymously report public places where you have felt or feel unsafe
- Fearless.org - this service allows you to pass on information about crime 100% anonymously. This means you don't have to provide any personal details
- CEOP - if you are worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online let CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) know
- Thinkuknow - an education programme from NCA-CEOP, a UK organisation which protects children both online and offline
- Community Care - Inform Children - safeguarding children and young people online
- Local information about community safety in your area
- cFamily Centre Community Safety Poster
If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 999 straight away.
- Herts Police has information on how to report a crime
- Crime Stoppers has an anonymous helpline and a webpage dedicated to community and family safety which includes topics such as organised crime, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Anti-social Behaviour (ASB) and county lines etc
- A short video about ‘Operation Makesafe’ raising the profile of Child Criminal Exploitation and Child Sexual Exploitation
- Make a referral to Children’s Services
- Herts County Council has a website with a dedicated section for safeguarding with contact information for parents and carers if they are concerned about a child’s safety and want support or want to make a referral
- Herts County Council Family Support Services in Herts has information about parenting courses such as families feelings safe, talking teens and protective behaviours for example and a service directory
- Information about the School Nursing Service
- Information about ChatHealth texting service for 11-18 year olds
- Health for Kids and Health for Teens - general information on a broad range of health-related topics
- Young person's signposting guide
- Youth Talk supports children and young people’s emotional wellbeing
- Services for Children and Young People in Herts (Previously Youth Connexions) has information about services for young people including activities in the local area and projects young people can participate in
- YoungMinds has a parent and carer helpline if they are struggling or concerned about a child or young person’s mental health and wellbeing. The helpline offers practical advice and tips on how to support children and young people. They also have a dedicated section for children and young people with further information and signposting advice
- Women's Aid - working together against domestic abuse. Find out more about healthy relationships and what to do if you think your relationship is unhealthy and abusive
- The ONYX service offers practical and emotional support to both children and adults who have experienced rape, sexual violence, sexual abuse or child sexual abuse via an independent sexual violence adviser, parents/carers or young people can self-refer to the service
- Brook is a website dedicated to promoting healthy lives for young people and has advice on a broad range of topics from relationships, staying safe online, forms of abuse, sex, STI’s and emergency contraception
- Stop it now! is a UK-wide charity dedicated solely to preventing child sexual abuse. They offer support for anyone with concerns about child sexual abuse and its prevention
- Health for Teens - lifestyle advice and contact details for families in Hertfordshire on a range of issues including drugs and alcohol
- FRANK is a useful website for further information about drugs and alcohol and they have a helpline service
- Re-solv offers help and support to parent’s and carers who are concerned about solvent drug use, including poppers and laughing gas, they offer a helpline and a live chat
- Safer Internet Centre offers a parent’s guide to technology and supports parents to keep their children safe online