Professor J. Freydlin November 16, 2012 ` Parenting and Gangs There are an estimated 800,000 gang members in the United States and 40% of this number, are juveniles (A. Engley and J. Howell, 2012). Gangs and gang culture destroys families and ruins the lives of many young people, as well as causing major problems in society and once peaceful communities. This is why it is so important for parents to guide children through life, protecting them from pitfalls like gangs. Interest in gangs can start at a very young age, twelve to fourteen, and remain susceptible into early adulthood (Mayo, 2012). This is why parents need to know; the steps it takes to guard against the desire of gang membership, the affects gangs have on a child once involved with a gang, and ways to help the child upon participation in gang activity. There are many ways to prevent gang membership and make it less desirable to children. Parents should go beyond just telling their kids they love them and become a nurturing presence in their lives. Always, a parent needs to be aware of the negative influences a child may encounter in his/her life, and help guide the child to role models that will have a positive effect on them. Another important and a key element in lowering the desirability of gang interest, is finding ways to make the child’s home a peaceful place, one that promotes good values and morals, and serves as a safety net for all the problems a child may encounter in life. Activities like sports, youth groups, church functions, and many other activities can also be very helpful in steering a child away from gang involvement. Most kids who find an interest in gangs are missing something at home, and are trying to replace it with gang membership. A concerned parent should take a good long look at the situation the child is in, and make the needed changes to prevent this problem. There are many negative effects that gang interaction has on children like poor academic performance at school, skipping school all together, and confrontational behavior. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Other problems that come with a child’s dealings with gangs are a negative opinion about law enforcement and those in positions of authority, drug experimentation and addiction, and a propensity towards violence (OJJDP, 2012). A child may also exhibit withdrawn behavior from normal activities and family functions, changes to his/her style of dress and music interest, as well as unhealthy attitude and outlook differences. A very serious effect of gang involvement is death. Many kids involved with gangs die every year due to gang violence and the number of deaths continue to rise. The affects that gangs have on children are negative and numerous, and the list goes on and on. Once a child has joined a gang, hope is not lost because there are many steps that can be taken to help put them on a positive path, one that keeps them from going down this slippery slope. Robert Walker, an expert on gangs says “a parent needs to recognize the identifiers and telltale signs of gang membership in order to make every possible attempt to keep the youth in, or return him to, his real family” (Walker,2012,para.3), and this is really good advice.