LONDON, July 31 — Britain’s official children’s commissioner said Sunday young children should be taught in their schools how to avoid being sucked into gangs or exploited by older criminals.
The commissioner, Anne Longfield, wants to see lessons to help children spot when they are being targeted by gangs.
Her intervention follows weekend media reports saying young children are being used by criminal gang members as “money mules”, warning children looking for “a sense of belonging, fast money” or “glamour” were at risk.
Research by Longfield’s commission has revealed 46,000 children in England are involved in gangs.
In a radio interview Sunday Longfield said children in Britain as young as 10 were being recruited into gangs that could be extremely violent, usually intimidatory and sexually abusive, particularly towards girls.
“These are horrific situations that young people are getting themselves into,” she said.
Longfield added that some young people were being used to transport drugs.
In the interview she said: “Anecdotally, I’m told that middle-class children are often being targeted as well because they are less likely to be stopped. Children who are easier to intimidate, vulnerable in some way and often being bullied, those that are easier to control, are being picked on.”
She has called on police forces to keep better data on involvement in gangs by children, adding that life skills lessons in schools should include information on the risks of becoming involved in gangs, an understanding of how gangs target children and help in building resilience to resist them.
One concern is that parents maybe unaware of who their children are talking to on social media sites.
“Most schools at the moment do provide life skill lessons but they’re often inconsistent and often they don’t tackle some of these issues that are much harder to tackle,” said Longfield.
The commissioner also called for police forces to work together to produce better data on the number of children targeted by gangs.
The government has announced that personal, social, health and economics (PSHE) as a subject is to be made compulsory in all state schools, and is currently consulting on what to include in the curriculum, but no timetable for its introduction has yet been set.