Life

How to talk to your teenager about knife crime

One of the biggest drivers among young people is fear.

Parents should be flexible and non-judgemental when speaking to their teenager about staying safe from knife crime
Parents should be flexible and non-judgemental when speaking to their teenager about staying safe from knife crime (Alamy Stock Photo)

Illegal dealers selling weapons, including knives, on social media to underage teenagers is still a “really concerning picture” for the police.

Commander Stephen Clayman, who is the national lead for policing knife crime, said forces in England and Wales are keen to end the supply of weapons and as a result reduce the number of injuries and deaths.

These knives are being sold to teenagers under 18 on social media platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat and those run by Meta.

“It can be extremely worrying to think that your child is involved in something as dangerous as knife crime. Knife crime has risen 81% in the last 10 years, so it is important to understand the reasons young people may think about carrying weapons,” said Anoushka Dunic, training programmes manager at The Ben Kinsella Trust.

“One of the biggest drivers of knife crime among young people is fear, so acknowledging our children’s fears can help them understand how they can make safe choices.”

(Alamy Stock Photo)

So how can parents talk to their teenagers about knife crime? Experts share everything you need to know.

How should parents approach the conversation?

It can be difficult to know how to start, here are some tips we recommend on how best to have meaningful conversations with our children about staying safe from knife crime.

“Before we start, make sure it is the right time and place, this may mean making sure the environment isn’t distracting and your child feels relaxed and safe,” said Dunic.

“Making sure you have enough time to have the conversation, things might get emotional and so we want to ensure we don’t have to leave the conversation before our child is ready.

“Sometimes, it can be easier to have these conversations whilst doing another activity, like going for a walk or whilst driving in the car. It may also help to check in with your own feelings too – are you feeling anxious about the topic, if so, it may be useful to learn about the law on knife crime.”

Dr Julius Elster, senior lecturer and course leader for BSc Youth Studies (Hons), at London Metropolitan University, agreed and added: “It’s also a good idea to encourage critical thinking by discussing the root causes of knife crime, such as peer pressure, social inequalities, and lack of opportunities.

“Teach children problem-solving skills and emphasise non-violent conflict resolution strategies, as well as the importance of seeking help from trusted adults or authorities if they ever feel threatened or unsafe.”

What about the wider impact of knife crime?

It’s about making them aware of the personal consequences of carrying a knife.

“Carrying a weapon increases the risk of them being injured themselves.


They could go to jail for up to four years if they’re found in possession of a knife, even if they’re carrying it for someone else. They will get a criminal record, which could stop them from entering university or getting a job, and place restrictions on countries that they can travel to, such as the USA, Australia and Canada,” said Dunic.

“In a worst-case scenario, they could end up using the weapon and seriously hurting someone. Help them understand that knife crime not only affects the person who carries the knife and the person who may be seriously harmed, but it also has a massive ripple effect on the families, friends and communities impacted by that event.”

(Alamy Stock Photo)

How can you support your teen? 

Parents should try and have a rough plan of the types of questions they want to ask their child, but be mindful of being flexible as the conversation may go in directions you may not have prepared for.

“It’s really important to listen to our children, non-judgmentally and empathetically. It’s also important to let them ask questions too and give them time to answer any questions you may have. Be realistic, sometimes the conversation might not go as expected and that’s OK. Let your children know you will always be there for them and try again another time,” said Dunic.

But Elster said it’s also important to get an understanding of their level of knowledge regarding knife crime, so asking them if they have heard about it at school or on the news, to determine how aware they are of the issue.

“In terms of supportive things to say, always reassure your child that they can talk to you about the issue and keep the conversation open. Try to also speak in a way that provides guidance and support for children as they navigate the complexities of knife crime and its impact on communities.”

What to do if you’re worried your teen might have friends who carry knives or have one themselves?

If you’re worried that your teen might have friends who carry knives or might possess one themselves, it’s crucial to address the situation promptly and delicately.

“Signs to look out for include changes in behaviour, secretive or evasive actions, sudden interest in weapons, or unexplained injuries. Make sure that you pay attention to any unusual behaviour or changes in their social circle. Keep an eye out for signs of aggression, involvement in fights, or sudden withdrawal from family and friends,” said Elster.

“You should also initiate an open and non-judgmental conversation with them. This includes expressing your concerns and listening to their perspective without jumping to conclusions.

“Remember support is available. If you suspect your teen is involved in dangerous activities, seek support from school counsellors, youth organisations, or mental health professionals. They can offer guidance and resources to address the situation effectively.”