1. Take the plunge
As a parent, there are lots of conversations you might rather not have with your children. The idea of willingly starting a talk about sex or their friends’ behaviour may feel very scary.
But if you don’t do it, who will? Unfortunately for you, your children are relying on you for information and – even more – support on the really challenging stuff.
Open the conversation early and they may come back when they’re really stuck and worried.
2. Be prepared to listen
These days, of course, it’s not just you and their friends who have information. There’s the whole rest of the world, via the internet.
This is a good thing, in a way: it relieves you of some of the pressure (no, sorry, not all). You don’t have to know everything any more. But you do still have to be on their side, perhaps more than ever, given the barrage of social media stuff they face.
If they think they’re not being listened to, children turn off. So your job is not (at least initially) to tell them what you think but rather to hear what they have to say. Approach conversations with an open mind. Let them know you’re committed to engaging with their opinions…even if you secretly know you’re really still in charge!
3. Trust yourself
As a parent, you’re already one of the leading experts on your child. It’s easy to get paranoid about all the potential risks out there or feel like you don’t know enough to be authoritative. Be honest about your own uncertainties and go into any conversation with an open mind. You know how to be a parent – and that’s a skill that is enough to be going on with.
Too often families are advised to ‘have a conversation’ about a difficult subject with their children.
This is all very well but the reason you need to have a conversation in the first place is that no one raises these difficult topics. What child wants to talk about sex with their parents? And what parent doesn’t worry about embarrassing their child and getting an unhelpful reaction?
So here are CEOP’s tips for ways to start a conversation with your child – and where to take it after that.
Three ways to open a conversation:
- I’ve heard/ I know that some young people talk about sex and even share sexual images online – what do you think about that?
- Has anything ever happened to a friend online that’s worried you?
- What things do you do to keep yourself safe online?
Three things to say in the conversation:
- Never share an image or do anything on a webcam you wouldn’t be happy for family or friends to see (they might!) If someone threatens you online, tell someone you trust. You can talk to me about it and, whatever the background, I’ll understand.
- If you do get into problems online, it’s never too late to get help. We’ll understand and you won’t be blamed.
And if something bad has happened, three things to do if your child tells you they’ve been blackmailed:
- Believe your child and tell them you believe them. Their experience needs to be acknowledged and understood.
- Don’t blame them and make sure they know that by telling them. Even if they’ve engaged in risky behaviour – risk-taking is a normal part of adolescent development.
- Don’t immediately ban them from the internet. Although you may need to take short-term safety steps, the best way for children to stay safe is by learning how to negotiate the online world.
Remember if your child has been hurt online, you’ll also be affected. Find someone outside the situation to talk about how you’re feeling.
Interested to learn about more ways to communicate with your child and understand other aspects of technology better?