Community safety for your child

Community Safety - Keeping your child safe outside of the home

What is Community Safety?

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.’

Some risky activities children might be involved in can include:

  • Involvement with gangs or serious youth violence, including county lines (a form of criminal exploitation where gangs persuade, coerce or force children to store drugs and money and/or transport them out of area)
  • Child criminal exploitation
  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Harmful sexual behaviours
  • Missing from home, education or care
  • Radicalisation
  • Trafficking
  • Modern slavery

What could this mean for my child?

Children of any age could be affected by these issues, but it is most commonly seen in adolescence (aged 10-19 years of age). Children even younger than this may also have access to smartphones, giving them opportunities to interact with friends and sometimes strangers on the internet, including through social media sites like TikTok and Snapchat.

These are some signs your child might be involved in these activities:

  • Significant changes in their emotional well-being or a change to their behaviour, or suspicions of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
  • Meeting unfamiliar adults
  • Relationships with controlling or older individuals
  • Any associations with gangs
  • A child or young person going missing from school or home
  • The use of drugs and alcohol

These are just some examples, and we know all children are different. There could be other signs that parents and carers recognise are not usual for their child which may be a concern to them.

Children themselves may also raise concerns with adults they trust about things they may have seen, or been asked to do, or might already be involved in. It is important to remember that it is not your child’s fault if they are involved in these activities – they are often targeted and recruited by people who may try to exploit, threaten or harm them.

There are also some signs that there may be activities going on in your local area that may involve children being at risk of harm. Things to look out for in your own community include:

  • Lone children from outside of the area
  • Individuals with multiple mobile phones or tablets or ‘SIM cards’
  • Unknown or suspicious looking characters coming and going from a neighbour’s house
  • Young people with more money, expensive clothing, or accessories than they can account for

What do I do if I think this might affect my 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?

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 to you about their experiences and what they say about their community and online experiences can be a good start.

These conversations can help to tip the balance towards your child being safer in their community.

If you are worried, consider talking about your worries with the designated safeguarding person at your child’s school or with your GP who will be able to listen to your concerns and help direct you to the most appropriate support.