How to respond to concerns about your child’s online sexual behaviour

Finding out that your child has done something harmful or illegal online can be difficult but you might need to think about making changes to keep them and other people safe.

Take time to talk calmly with your child about what they have done to understand what happened and how to prevent more harm. Make sure your child knows that you love them and will support them. Try to find out more about what has happened. For example, was anyone else, such as friends, siblings or adults, present or involved.

Think about who needs to know and why. For example, other adults supervising your child might need to be told about what has happened to help look after them appropriately. Try to be open with your child about who you need to talk to and why.

How to talk to your children about their concerning online sexual behaviour

It can be difficult, but here are some suggestions.

Make sure everyone knows that it’s ok to talk to you about what has happened

Let everyone involved ask questions and provide opportunities for family members to talk in private if this is helpful.

Open the lines of communication

Conversations between young people and families should be an ongoing process, not just a one-time event after something has gone wrong. It is important for adults to set the tone by talking about sex appropriately and for young people to know that they won’t shock or embarrass their parents if they ask questions. Adults need to lead by example by opening up discussions about what is and is not ok.

Talk about warning signs

Are there things that might show you or the young person when things aren’t quite right? For example, spending long periods of time alone on their phone, shutting a tab when someone enters the room, becoming quiet and withdrawn or not socialising with peers. Can you talk about what to do if you see any of these warning signs?

Identify who everyone involved will talk to if there is a concern or worry

Parents and children might speak, or they might go to a trusted family friend or relative. It is important that whoever this is, it is someone who is responsible, honest and trustworthy.

Set clear family boundaries

Talk about and set clear family boundaries around internet use and think about making a digital safety plan. As the young person gets older these will need to be adjusted.

Get support – you are not alone

You don’t have to do everything by yourself. The experienced advisors on our confidential Stop It Now! helpline (0808 1000 900) can help talk things through. You can stay anonymous and don’t have to give your real name, location or any contact details. If you’re not ready to speak to anyone yet, you can also use our live chat or send a secure email.

Don’t wait until there are concerns to talk about sex and relationships. Read our tips on how to open up the conversation.

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