How to open a difficult conversation

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Too often parents 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 teenager 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 teenager - and where to take it after that.

Three ways to open a conversation:

  1. I've heard/ I know that some young people talk about sex and even share sexual images online – what do you think about that?
  2. Has anything ever happened to a friend online that's worried you?
  3. What things do you do to keep yourself safe online?

Three things to say in the conversation:

  1. Never share an image or do anything on a webcam you wouldn't be happy for family or friends to see (they might!)
  2. If someone threatens you online, tell someone you trust. You can talk to me about it and, whatever the background, I'll understand.
  3. 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:

  1. Believe your child and tell them you believe them. Their experience needs to be acknowledged and understood.
  2. Don't blame them, and make sure they know that. Tell them. Even if they've engaged in risky behaviour – risk-taking is a normal part of adolescent development.
  3. 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.

If your child does disclose they're being abused online or you're worried they might be, you can report it to CEOP.

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