This article was contributed by NCA-CEOP

NCA-CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency. As well as being a reporting mechanism, NCA-CEOP works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children, and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account.

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How to open a difficult conversation with your child

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NCA-CEOP's tips for how to start an embarrassing or uncomfortable conversation with your teenager

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 NCA-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.

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 to about how you're feeling.

Further reading

Tips on talking to your child about sex and relationships

Get help

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

Contact NCA-CEOP


The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

First published: May 2014

Updated: May 2018


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