A new study has shown that gangs are now using social media to recruit members, according to reports in the media.
Conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS), the research is the first to study the impact that social media has on high-risk youth. It covered 36 juvenile delinquents who are between 15 and 18 years of age with criminal records including robbery, theft, drugs and rioting.
The study found that these young people socialised with friends who are connected to gangs via platforms such as Facebook.
One 17-year-old revealed that he was recruited via online interactions with certain gang members, saying: “The more frequently we talk, as you get closer, you get recruited into the gang.”
Associate Professor Lim Sun Sun from the NUS Department of Communications and New Media said: “For youths at risk, one important issue is that if they engage in unstructured, unsupervised socialising with their peers, the tendency for them to then engage in acts of delinquency is higher.”
Aside from recruiting members, social media is also being used for posturing.
Some of the respondents said they belong to certain groups that use Facebook to project gang identities. This is achieved by including the same suffix or prefix to their profile names or by adding the secret code, logo or gang name in their profile information.
The study also found that social media might also provide a route to recidivism. This occurs as many high-risk youth find it difficult to “unfriend” their old peers.
Dr Lim noted that those who want to start anew could create a new online existence to put “their delinquent past behind them.”