Discussion Guide

Creating a Safe Space to Talk About Risky Online Encounters

Online grooming can happen quickly or over time, but at its core it’s a process of exploiting trust to shift expectations of what safe behavior is, while leveraging fear and shame to keep a child silent.
illustration of a person in a hat and dark glasses

Introduction

Why talking about this is important

Approximately 1 in 5 kids age 9-12 reported having had a sexual interaction online with someone they believed to be an adult. Kids can encounter strangers and risky interactions online, and it’s common for them to try to handle it alone. This type of isolation can lead to feelings of shame and, unfortunately, more harmful situations. An open dialogue can help your child know you are there for them.

In this guide you will:

  • Proactively teach your child how to get out of risky interactions online.
  • Make sure your child knows how to recognize red flags and make an exit plan.
  • Continue an open dialogue and create a safe space for your child to come to you or a trusted adult.

What to expect from your kid

Kids often don’t come to parents about awkward or uncomfortable online interactions because they are embarrassed or scared they will lose privileges. As awkward as it may feel, talking about this openly and directly builds trust and shows your child that no topic is off limits with you and that they won’t get in trouble.

First steps

How to start talking

Your child may feel like they can handle it alone, but it’s important for them to know that you are there to support them, no matter what. Explain the warning signs so they can identify it and come to you right away. Here are some key moments to start the conversation:
  • Start showing an interest in social media.
  • They mention an experience someone they know had with an online friend.
  • They want to download a new app or game.
  • They mention talking to their friends online.

Has anyone ever made you feel weird or nervous online?

Conversation Script

Let's play this out

Related Discussion Guides

Addressing grooming early can establish a safe space so your child will come to you if something feels off. Here are some complimentary discussion guides to take the conversation further:

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