Social Media and Online Behaviour
We request that ALL parents spend some time in the coming week to speak with their children about appropriate behaviours online and esafety. We know the digital landscape can be difficult for parents to manage given the number of apps and devices which are seemingly ubiquitous. Over the coming weeks, we will endeavour to provide families with resources to help them speak with their children.
If you do want further information we strongly urge parents to visit the eSafety Commissioner's website at www.esafety.gov.au/parents.
How to start the chat
General tips about how to start the chat, whatever the subject.
Work out what you want to say and how you want to say it, depending on the issue you want to talk about. Go somewhere together where you can talk privately, like in a car driving somewhere. Being in an environment where you can talk without being interrupted can also make things more comfortable for both parent and child.
Perhaps have the talk while you're doing something together, like a long walk or a car trip — especially if you think it will be hard to keep your child engaged in the conversation. Think of some positive examples of good behaviour that you can use to contrast negative or harmful behaviours.
Listen, don't judge
Let your child know you are there to help them, no matter what. Listening will also help you understand their attitudes and respond to specific issues. For example:
- ‘I understand what you're saying, and I'm glad you came to me about this. You're not going to get into trouble, but we need to trust each other, fix this and move forward.'
- ‘You might not want to tell me all the detail, but if we can talk honestly about what's happened I promise I will listen and stay calm. No matter what happens, we can do this and I love you.’
Asking questions about how they feel and what they know helps you to gauge your child's level of knowledge and keeps you from lecturing.
For example, you could ask:
- ‘Have you seen anyone being bullied online? How did you think that made them feel? How did you feel? Has anything like this ever happened to you?’
- ‘Is cyberbullying a problem at your school?’
- Do kids at your school talk about watching online pornography?
- ‘Do you think it was right for him to post that video online of his friend having sex with a girl? What do you think might happen to him now that he’s done that?’
- ‘What do your friends think about sending nudes? Do you agree with them?’
- ‘Have you ever been sent a nude? How did you feel? What did you do?’
- ‘Has anyone asked you to send a nude? How did that make you feel?’
- ‘Have you ever felt uncomfortable about someone contacting you online?’
Get help if you need it
- You could seek advice from a counsellor or Parentline.
- Your child’s teacher may also be able to point you towards suitable resources to help you explain things.
- If your child says that they have been abused or assaulted, help is available from a professional counselling service, like Kids Helpline. The Australian Institute of Family Studies also has some advice on this.
- If the subject is just too difficult for you to talk about with a child in your care, see I need help to start the chat below.
Talking about sex and pornography
We have worked with leading parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson to provide practical support and resources to parents on this sensitive issue.
How to start
The hardest part is how to begin. Here are some possible ways to start the chat:
- ‘I don't really know what to say, but we have to have a talk about sex and pornography.’
- ‘I read an article today that said kids are seeing pornography at really young ages. Can I talk to you about it?’
- ‘I want to talk with you about one of those awkward topics. Is that OK?’ (They rarely say ‘no’, but if they do, respect that, and then set up a time where you can talk.)
Keeping it going
After they have agreed to talk with you, here are some ways to keep things moving.
These tips can be useful whatever the age of your child. But you should tailor the discussion based on your knowledge of your child and their level of maturity and development.
- ‘Have you heard the word pornography? What do you know about it?’
- ‘Do any of the kids at school ever talk about it?’ (Sometimes questions about your child's behaviour may be too confronting, so asking about their peers feels safer.) ‘What do they say?’
- ‘Have you ever seen it?’ If they have seen it, ask: ‘Did someone show it to you? Or did you find it yourself?’ Try to find out what you can about how they found it and why they were searching for it.
- If you know your child has been exposed to (or is viewing) pornography, it is better to say, ‘When I found you looking at pornography the other night...’ rather than, ‘Have you seen pornography?’
- If they have seen it, reassure them they are not in trouble. Ask: ‘When you saw it, how did it make you feel?’ Discuss those feelings.
- Depending on your child's questions and maturity, you may wish to discuss issues related to 'consent', 'intimacy in close relationships', and 'respect'. See What can I do if my child has found pornography online? for detailed advice about what to cover in your discussion.
- Check if your child has any other questions or if you have explained things enough for them.
- Let your child know that any question is OK to ask — nothing is off limits. This is true even when you might have to send them to someone else to find the answers.
- If you don't know the answer to one of their questions, tell them you will find out. Then use it as an opportunity to have another talk.