Knife crime: Teenagers fearful on the streets and in schools

Knife crime: Teenagers fearful on the streets and in schools

30 minutes agoBBCTeens were asked about online safety, knife crime and mental health

Hundreds of teenagers have told the BBC they are concerned about knife crime in their everyday lives.

In a survey of 2,000 young people aged 13-18, nearly half (46%) said they were worried about knife crime in their local area and 31% in their school.

The survey also asked teens about their mental health and wellbeing, online safety and mobile phone use, with 23% agreeing that smartphones should be banned for under 16s. More than a third said social media should be banned for under 16s.

Polling company Survation conducted the online survey for BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Bitesize in which 1,000 teenage boys and 1,000 girls across the UK were asked about their experiences.

Josh, who has been doing a mechanics course, says he thinks people shy away from talking about knife crime

For 17-year-old Josh from Hull, knife crime is a topic he thinks people don’t want to talk about.

“It doesn’t happen much but everyone knows it’s there. I think people struggle to accept the possibility they could go out and be stabbed.”

McKenzie is 16 and in his last week of school. He says teenagers have to be careful. “You could turn a corner, someone could jump out.”

The impact of knife crime is something Nikita Kanda understands all too well. In June 2022, her 16-year-old brother Ronan was stabbed to death close to his home, in Wolverhampton.

Pooja KandaRonan, pictured with his sister Nikita, was killed in a knife attack

Ronan, who didn’t have any involvement with knives and gangs, was murdered in a case of mistaken identity.

Nikita now campaigns on the issue of knife crime. She says it is good that more teenagers are becoming aware of the problem.

“It can happen to anyone,” she told the BBC. “Before this happened to our family, we were very complacent towards knife crime, we’d see it in the news and maybe flick past it and wouldn’t really think twice about it because you never think its going to be you.”

Online safety

The poll suggests more teenagers are messaging people online they don’t know. This year, 37% of teenagers said they had, up 6% on last year.

The Outkast Panda Crew runs groups for young people to give them new skills in things like mechanics. Hannah, from Bridlington, also goes there to socialise and meet other young people.

Hannah’s mum tells her to be careful online

She says it can be easier to make new friends online – which is why she sometimes messages people she doesn’t know.

“You make a profile so people can get to know a bit about you and then people start to add you and you make friends. My mum is alright with it. She just tells me to be careful.”

Ellis, who is 18, added: “I’m on a friends app but I’m very careful with what I’m doing. I don’t always trust the people on them.”

Teenagers also spoke about ways to protect themselves from harmful online content.

In our survey, 82% said they agreed with filters to stop algorithms pushing harmful images. And 86% felt social media companies should be more proactive in removing content.

Two thirds (67%) said they agreed with tech companies carrying out age ID checks and 80% said there should be safer internet search functions.

Listen to Radio 5 Live and Bitesize’s Teen24 summit from 09:00 on Wednesday 12 June on BBC Sounds

Ofcom has recently published more than 40 guidelines it says sites and apps should follow to keep children safe online.

McKenzie said he had removed privacy settings since he was 16. “There should be an age limit on all apps.”

Mental health and wellbeing

The survey also asked teens about other issues including mental health and body image.

More than a quarter (28%) of the 13-18 year olds said they had sought professional help for their mental health and wellbeing.

For older respondents, aged 16 to 18, 41% said they had joined a gym to change the way their body looked and a third of that age group said they had restricted what they ate.

GP and wellbeing campaigner Dr Radha Modgil is the co-host of the new World of Wellbeing podcast on Bitesize Study Support and BBC Sounds where she discusses topics, including self-esteem, with 16-year-old TikToker Ami Charlize.

Ami Charlize and Dr Radha Modgil discuss issues like self-esteem on their podcast

Dr Radha said young people faced many challenges and pressures, including achieving good exam grades, living up to others’ expectations, and around body image.

“It’s crucial we support them by encouraging them to notice their feelings, feel comfortable talking about their thoughts and emotions, provide the services and support they need, and ensure we help them learn effective and practical strategies they can use every day for their mental and emotional wellbeing,” she added.

On the upside, 71% of those in school or college said that they enjoyed it. There has also been an increase in the number of teens feeling good about what lies ahead – three quarters (75%) said they felt positive about their future, up 9% on last year.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, there are details of organisations who may be able to offer help and support on the BBC Action Line website.

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