A child or young person can be exposed to lots of different influences when they leave their home, for example their friendship groups and peers, their school friends, online through phones, tablets and computers, and also in their neighbourhoods.
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.’
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, including through social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.
Risk taking behaviour is part of growing up. Pushing boundaries, seeking new experiences and widening peer groups is part of normal development.
Sometimes this can be dangerous. It is important parents and carers understand risks and know how to identify them.
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 – they are often targeted and recruited by people who may try to take advantage of, threaten or harm them.
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?
We know 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. Click here for more information on services that may be able to offer help and support to you and your family.
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