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December 4, 2023 Dec 04, 2023 4 min read

Checklist: How to Talk to Your Children About Online Sexual Predators

The following checklist is designed to help parents open a conversation with their children about online sexual abuse. While everyone's situation is unique, this list will provide a helpful framework for structuring these often uncomfortable yet necessary conversations.

Inform yourself first

Before speaking with your children about online sexual abuse, it’s important to arm yourself with the facts. For example, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received over 80,000 reports of online child sexual abuse in 2022 alone. Adjusted for population differences, the data is almost identical in Canada.


While these numbers may seem high and should certainly be taken seriously, it’s important to understand that a child in the US or Canada has well below a 1% chance of being solicited by an online sexual predator, according to available data. In most cases, minors are more likely to experience online sexual abuse from peers than from adults.

Other things you’ll want to familiarize yourself with include common online locations where sexual abuse occurs and online behaviors that could indicate grooming or sexual abuse.

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Ask permission

Before opening up a conversation with your child about online sexual abuse, ask them if they’re okay with having that conversation with you. While it may feel difficult for some parents to defer to their child’s judgment, refraining from forcing a conversation like this will actually increase your chances of having an open dialogue.


Try leading with something like, “I’ve been hearing a lot about online sexual predators lately, and I’d really like to check in with you about it briefly, if that’s okay with you.” If your child says no, respect the boundary and ask if there’s another adult or trusted friend they’d be open to talking with instead. If not, ask if there’s another time that would feel more comfortable for them.

Explain why the conversation is important

This explanation doesn’t have to be long or complex. You could simply saying something like, “Online sexual abuse is one of the risks that comes with using the internet, so being aware of it is important just like it’s important to be aware of dangerous people in the real world.”


Ask your child about their online experiences

While there’s no guarantee your child will be open to talking about it, it’s important to ask them if they have had any inappropriate or uncomfortable experiences online. Preface the question by letting your child know that you will not be mad or punish them for having had inappropriate experiences online. Nevertheless, it’s important for you to know if there is anyone in your child’s life you should be aware of or develop specific safety protocols around.

Plan for safety

If your child reveals to you that they’ve had any unsafe or questionable experiences online, plan for safety immediately. Find out if your child is in danger of being contacted (especially in person) by a predator. Has someone acquired your address or contact information? Does the predator know where your child goes to school? For more safety planning ideas, check out our article “I Found Out My Child Is Being Sexually Abused Online. What Should I Do?”

Use collaboration over discipline

While it may be tempting to buckle down on your child’s freedom to protect them from online sexual predators, this could have a contradictory effect. Instead, approach your child as a collaborator in the task of keeping them safe. Open up a dialogue with about how you can both ensure that their time spent online is safe and rewarding.


Of course, some circumstances might require parents to step in and limit their child’s internet access if and when an abuser is actively contacting or stalking a minor. If this is the case, seek help from an advocate or legal professional to decide on a plan of action.

Foster open communication across the board

Last but not least, remember that the conversation with your child about online sexual abuse should be an ongoing one. Especially if your child shows any hesitance or resistance to discussing the topic, it will be important to circle back from time to time. To actively foster an open line of communication with your child, embody patience and understanding when communicating with them.

For more information on this topic check out our checklist for How to Talk to Your Children About Sexual Abuse.

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