Groups of teenagers ‘hanging out’ on the streets may look intimidating, but young people often gang together with friends as a way of keeping safe and avoiding trouble, according to a study of parents and children in disadvantaged communities for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.The research with families in four neighbourhoods of Glasgow found that young people pooled their detailed local knowledge to avoid hazards, including violence from more organised gangs and aggression from adults with drink and drug problems. They took responsibility for keeping themselves and friends safe by moving around in groups and looking out for each other, using mobile phones to stay in touch.
The report calls on national and local policy makers to build on the strengths and aspirations of parents and children in disadvantaged areas, as well as tackling the heightened risks they face, such as drug misuse and antisocial behaviour. For example, policies could do more to support the informal local networks that share information about safe activities and provide families with practical advice and support. Schools are also urged to capitalise on the evidence of parents’ positive commitment to discipline and their children’s safety to engage them as allies in strategies to raise standards of behaviour.
Evidence of adults feeling threatened by groups of young people comes from Staffordshire where police responded to complaints by residents who were reluctant to enter a shop because of fear of running the gauntlet. Trials of a high frequency sound device which transmits a signal that is audible to young people, but rarely to those who are older, quickly dispersed the group. Young people questioned said the noise was so unpleasant it made them feel sick. They have not returned to their pitch outside the shop. Staffordshire police plan to use the device in different locations so that the groups will not know where next they are going to experience discomfort.