Young people aged 13-24 are growing up and becoming adults. Everybody makes mistakes along the way. Usually this is just part of growing up and is easily solved. But sometimes young people get into more serious trouble and suffer problems as a result, like:
- Missing school or college
- Not getting important qualifications
- Drifting into risky or even criminal behaviour
If this is happening to you or a friend, then you need to take action. But don't worry about solving problems on your own. Lots of help is available.
Take action: Feeling bored? Want some excitement? If you're aged 16-17, you can join a National Citizen Service team.
Talk to someone
If you are worried about your own or someone else's behaviour, then the most important thing to do is talk to an adult you trust. If you can, talk to a teacher, youth worker or social worker. These adults have a duty to make sure you are safe. That includes supporting you to be safe and make positive changes.
Instant expert: Keeping Children Safe on the Oxfordshire County Council Website
Becoming involved with the wrong people and being involved in risky situations can become a habit. It might seem fun, or exciting. Some people seem to get addicted to it, almost as if it were a drug. People who get bored easily, or who don't have many interests in their life, are particularly at risk.
Every year, fewer young people enter the justice system. This is because most young people are successfully supported to avoid crime.
Things you can do yourself
People in risky situations struggle to find opportunities and maintain healthy relationships. They are also more at risk of health problems like substance misuse and dropping out of education.
If you or your friends are getting involved in risky or dangerous behaviour, there are some simple changes you can make which will help:
- Change your routine
- Avoid risky situations and plans
- Get interested in a wider variety of things
How to get more interests:
Having more going on in your life means you more people see you regularly, help you build skills and look out for you. This is one of the best ways to stay safe and happy.
Here are some suggestions of things to do:
- Join a band, club, group, collective or any kind of regular activity
- Do an outdoor activity like fishing, cycling or walking
- Study something like a language or a new skill
- Play computer, phone or board games
- Get a job, do work for friends or family or volunteer
- Do regular exercise like jogging, swimming, keep fit or sports.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, trouble seems to happen. If you are struggling with being in trouble, there are people who can help. Speak to someone at your school or college, or contact your local Children & Family Centre.
Crucial: In an emergency, don't worry about getting in trouble. Dial 999 and get help.
When to get help
Staying out of trouble can sometimes be very hard. This is especially true if there is pressure from older friends, family members or people you look up to to behave in a particular way.
Some young people find that changing friends or the places they hang out helps, but this can be difficult.
Remember, you have the power and you can make change happen. Asking for help is the first step.
Groomed to commit crimes?
Some adults exploit children by befriending them and then persuading or forcing them to commit crimes. This can be things like:
- Carrying drugs
- Hiding stolen goods
Adult criminals use children to do crimes because they believe that children are easily bullied, they won't go to the police, and they don't need to be paid as much as adults. Some children are promised money but receive nothing at all; others are threatened with violence if they try to stop. Criminal Exploitation can happen alongside Child Sexual Exploitation. Children who join gangs are particularly at risk.
While adults exploiting children are caught and jailed, this process can take time. During this time a lot of damage can be done. Social workers and police will help, but this can be very difficult if the child has been persuaded to resist or refuse help.
Young people who have survived the process have this advice to give young people who are targeted by criminals:
- It might feel exciting at the time but stop and think about the consequences
- Never let anyone guilt or pressure you into doing these things
- If this happens to you make sure you talk to someone and get support
- Keep on asking for help and don't take no for an answer