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Socializing online can be a great way for children to build friendships, but it can also put them at risk.


What is unwanted contact?

Unwanted contact is any type of online communication your child finds unpleasant or confronting or leads them into a situation where they might do something they regret. Unwanted contact is not limited to ‘strangers’ - it can happen even if your child initially welcomed the contact. It can also be online ‘friends’ your child has not met face-to-face, or from someone they actually know. At worst, it can involve ‘grooming’ a child - building a relationship with a child online in order to abuse them sexually.


This abuse can happen in a physical meeting, but it increasingly occurs online when young people are tricked or persuaded into sexual activity on webcams or into sending sexual images. How do I protect my child from unwanted contact?

  • Make their accounts private - encourage them to make their social media accounts private or to adjust their settings to control who can look at their photos and posts. 

  • Delete requests from strangers - suggest they delete friend requests from people they don’t know and contacts on their friends list they don’t talk to. 

  • Stay involved in their digital world - ask them about the sites, apps, and online chat services they are using, and explore them together.

  • Build an open trusting relationship - keep communication open and calm so they know they can come to you when someone is asking them to do something that does not feel right.


What are the warning signs?


Encourage your child to be wary of an online ‘friend’ who:

  • asks a lot of questions about personal information soon after the meeting

  • asks for favors and does things in return - abusers often use promises, gifts, and favors to gain trust

  • wants to keep their relationship secret

  • contacts them frequently and in different ways, like texting, through online chat on social media sites

  • asks things like who else uses their computer or which room it’s in

  • compliments them on their appearance or asks things like, "Have you ever been kissed’?

  • insists on meeting face-to-face.


Many of these warning signs can apply to people the child knows in real life as well as to strangers.

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