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 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 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 avoid risky situations and make positive changes.
Instant expert: Keeping Children Safe on the Oxfordshire County Council Website
Becoming involved with the risky people and situations can quickly become a habit. 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. You are also more at risk if people you know have committed crimes.
Every year, fewer young people enter the justice system. This is because most young people don't commit crimes, and those that do often stop, either on their own or through being 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, gym, 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, talk to your School Health Nurse 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 much. Children may receive some money but are also threatened with violence, terrorised, attacked or told they need to work to pay off imaginary debts. Friends and family members may also be threatened or attacked. 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 or forced 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
They also shared that things started when they were persuaded by a friend, or tried to help a friend they felt was in trouble, and that they wished they had spoken to an adult earlier, even though it would have been difficult.
Did you know? You don't need to meet a criminal to get into trouble - young people may be targeted by criminals online or via email or message by criminals who want access to a clean bank account to use for processing money. Cash flip fraud - sometimes called money muling - is illegal, as it involves handling the proceeds of crime. Over 10,000 accounts of young people and children were reported to fraud prevention in 2018 alone, the youngest was 8 years old. Many reported that they were persuaded to loan bank account details to friends and later found that they had been accessed by criminals. Letting someone else use your bank account is a potentially serious criminal offence - no matter how good the reasons are - and could lead to a damaged credit rating or even a criminal record.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are often involved when young people get into trouble. They can make it harder to resist pressure and easier to act in way that is impulsive, aggressive or dangerous. They lower inhibitions and make it harder to think clearly about a situation.