Conversation Starters Library

Conversation Starters Library

As a caregiver, communication with your young person is crucial to the bond and relationship that you hold with them. Communication also has implications for their growth and development as individuals in this world. Explore below to learn some tips from our favorite experts on how to start the conversation on a variety of topics with your young person…

Online Exploitation Conversation Starters

Starting the Conversation

Written by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) / Netsmartz

Online enticement involves an individual communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction. This is a broad category of online exploitation and includes sextortion, in which a child is being groomed to take sexually explicit images and/or ultimately meet face-to-face with someone for sexual purposes, or to engage in a sexual conversation online, or in some instances, to sell/trade the child’s sexual images. This type of victimization takes place across every platform: social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc.

When and How to Start the Conversation

 

Discussions about positive, healthy habits online should start early and happen often. Use these discussion starters to initiate the conversation.

Children and adolescents may not take the first steps in disclosing to you an uncomfortable online interaction. If during this discussion you hear something that is startling to you, try to react calmly and continue listening. Remember, it is not the child who is at fault. Together you can report the incident to the CyberTipline. 

Conversation Starters

 

  • “Has anyone ever tried talking to you online about inappropriate or sexual things? What did you do?”
  • “Do you trust all of your online friends? Are there any people you should unfriend or block?”
  • “Do you know how to report, flag, or block people on the websites and apps you use? Can you show me?”
  • “Who would you talk to if you were upset by a request you received online?”
  • Reinforce:
  • “You have the right to say ‘NO’ to anyone who talks about or asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even if it’s someone you know.”
  • “Someone who pressures you to talk about or do something sexual online is not someone you should trust.”
  • “Block, unfriend, or report anyone sending an unwanted sexual request.”
  • “Talk to a friend or an adult you trust if you get upset about a sexual request. Sometimes just talking about it can help.”
  • “Be very careful about meeting someone you met online in the real world. Please let me know if you plan on doing this and make sure myself or another trusted adult can be with you. It is always essential with meetings like this that you meet and stay in a public place.”
What to do if your young person has experienced online exploitation

 

NCMEC has operated the CyberTipline®, to provide the public and electronic service providers with the ability to report suspected child sexual exploitation, including online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to children, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet. After NCMEC’s review is completed, the CyberTipline report is made available to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

To make a CyberTipline Report, visit report.cybertip.orgSupport for exploited children

Sexting Conversation Starters

Sexting Convo Starters

Written by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) / Netsmartz

Many preteens and teens believe that anything they want to do with their bodies and their phones is their business. They enjoy the privacy and freedom that cell phones give them from their caregivers, but what happens when they use their cell phones to explore their sexuality?

Sex + Texting = Sexting (verb), Sex +Text = Sext (noun).

Conversation Starters

Ask questions to make it clear you’re comfortable with what you are discussing. An easy-going and understanding attitude can go a long way in facilitating a safe environment where young people feel they are able to open up about uncomfortable topics.

Discuss what characterizes a healthy relationship. The differences in healthy vs. unhealthy relationships is something that is important for every caregiver to communicate with their youth and this can have lasting positive effects.

Many preteens and teens don’t realize how public cell phone text and imaging messages can be, so reinforcing this concept is vital. Emphasize the importance of not forwarding sexts they receive. Being able to respect others’ privacy and feelings puts them on a path of good digital citizenship.

  • “Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to sext? Have you ever received a sexy picture from someone?”
  • “Any person pressuring you to sext isn’t someone you should trust. Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, but a sexual image of you can stay around forever.”
  • “Once a photo is sent, it’s out of your control.”
  • “You do not have the right to decide who should see someone else’s body. Forwarding images is a major violation of trust and exposes the person in the picture to potential ridicule. Imagine how you would feel if someone betrayed your trust by sharing a nude photo of you.”
If Your Young Person’s Image is Already Out There

Advise them to document any and all harassment. When reporting cases of sextortion, it’s invaluable to have evidence of the harassment. That means making sure children know how to save any messages, images, or files the extorter sends through a website, app, or text message.

Review steps for reporting the extortion. Beyond documenting the harassment, victims should block the extorter’s accounts and report the threats directly to the website or app where the harassment is happening. A report should also be made to local law enforcement and NCMEC’s CyberTipline.

Help minors remove their content from the internet. Visit www.MissingKids.org/IsYourExplicitContentOutThereto get step-by-step directions about contacting sites and apps like Google and Snapchat about flagging and removing sexually explicit content featuring minors.

Be part of a strong support system. Many victims of sextortion feel a sense of guilt or shame, especially when they may have sent the initial sext willingly. Try to be empathetic to the situation and focus on problem-solving for the present and future rather than dwelling on the past mistake.

 

 

Cyberbullying Conversation Starters

Cyberbullying Convo Starters

According to StopBullying.gov, Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. It can happen via text message and within apps, on social media, forums, and gaming sites. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can also include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

Conversation Starters For Youth
Ask:
  • “Has anyone ever tried talking to you online about inappropriate or sexual things? What did you do?”
  • “Do you trust all of your online friends? Are there any people you should unfriend or block?”
  • “Do you know how to report, flag, or block people on the websites and apps you use? Can you show me?”
  • “Who would you talk to if you were upset by a request you received online?”
Reinforce:
  • “If you see something online that’s meant to hurt someone, don’t ‘like’ or share it. Think about how you’d feel if someone did that to you.”
  • “It’s OK not to like someone. It’s not OK to bully them.”
  • “If someone cyberbullies you, you may want to send a mean comment back, but it could make this worse. Instead, save the evidence and report it.”
  • “Being a good digital citizen means standing up for others. Take steps to help peers who are being cyberbullied (e.g., post nice comments, sit with them at lunch, report the harassment, etc.)”
Gaming Conversation Starters

Gaming Convo Starters

When it comes to managing a young person’s game usage, it is far easier to establish healthy boundaries and rules before they get their first gaming console rather than after, but this is also a case of “better late than never.” If you have never set rules around these things, or if you are observing any “red flag” behaviors, it may be time to establish/reinforce some new guidelines.

Tips to start the digital conversation:
  • Choose a time when your young person may be more open and accepting to work with you on establishing some rules through the BLOOM Gaming Contract.
  • Try to avoid shaming over digital use.
  • Become more involved by learning about what digital means they use most often, who they are using it with, and if they are aware of how to set preferences and protect themselves within each platform.
  • Stay involved and take an active interest in their gaming experiences. Being a part of their gaming “world” will help keep the lines of communication open and keep you in the know.
Conversation Starters for preteens and teens

​​Use these tips to help your young person game more safely online.

  • “It seems like you are really interested in certain games. What are your favorite games right now? Would you show me how they’re played? Could I play with you?”
  • “Which games are you good at? Do you play these games with others? Who are your favorite people to play these games with?”
  • “Do you know all of the other gamers you associate with personally? Are there any players that you only know from being online with them?”
  • “Has anyone ever contacted you on any of your gaming platforms that you don’t know personally?”
  • “Where else do you play online games, besides at home?”
  • “What are some ways that you can protect your privacy with your gaming platform? Can you show me your privacy and notification settings?”
  • “Has anyone ever bullied you or sent inappropriate messages or images to you while gaming or online?”
  • “Do you play any games that may be considered violent? I would like to research your games’ ratings and content on www.esrb.org. Can we see how they rate together?”
Social Media Conversation Starters

Social Media Convo Starters

Written by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) / Netsmartz

Conversation Starters for preteens and teens

Social media sites and apps have become an important part of how we all use the internet. Preteens, teens, and adults like Facebook and apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.

 

In a 2018 Pew Research survey, teens were split on whether social media had a mostly positive or mostly negative effect on their lives. The noted positive elements included social media’s role in connecting them with friends and family, easy access to news and information, and meeting others with similar interests. The noted negative effects included bullying, lack of in-person contact, and unrealistic views of others’ lives.

 

For this reason, it is important that caregivers build some awareness around how these social media sites work, what the appeal is for our young people (even if we are not users), and how to keep our kids safer while using them.

  • “What social media apps are you on the most? Which apps have you downloaded?”
  • “Can you show me some of the pictures and content you have posted online? Let’s talk about why you chose to post certain things.”
  • “Do you usually get a friend request or notice that others are following you on your social media accounts?  Do you know them all? Do you know how to unfollow or block those you do not know?”
  • “Has anyone ever contacted you on any of your social media accounts that you don’t know personally?”
  • “Do you know how to turn off your notifications and turn on your privacy settings within all of your social media accounts? Are all your accounts set to ‘private?’”
  • “Have you ever seen or read something that gave you a weird or bad feeling/emotion? What was it that made you feel this way? Why did it bring out this emotion in you?”
  • “Have you ever seen something online that was bothersome, embarrassing, or inappropriate? This could be anything from online drama, racist or harmful language, bullying, or even something sexually explicit.”
Cell Phone Conversation Starters

Cell Phone Convo Starters

Conversation Starters for younger youth

Screens are virtually unavoidable. Not only have they become a critical tool for communication between adolescents (and adults), tech and the use of screens in place of textbooks, in-class learning, and at-home assignments hit schools like a tidal wave in recent years. And let’s face it, sometimes allowing a child to have some screen time is also a coping mechanism for a caregiver to occupy their youth. Start conversations with them about the positive and negative effects of screen time early and consider evaluating your own screen usage with a critical eye.

Conversation Starters for preteens and teens

Involve them! Discuss screen time with them, and help bring awareness by engaging them in evaluating their own screen usage. Preteens and teens are often more aware than we give them credit for, and may even have concerns about their own tech usage. Whether they do or don’t, helping them understand what their caregivers believe to be appropriate, healthy, and reasonable can help them monitor their own usage. Establishing rules and boundaries are not always welcomed by preteens and teens. Ongoing conversations about the use of digital devices are critical to establish good digital safety, citizenship, and wellness.

  • “What apps are you on the most? Which apps have you downloaded?”
  • “How much time a day do you feel is appropriate to be on your phone? What are some things you can do to manage your cell phone usage?”
  • “Do you know everyone personally in your contacts on your phone, social, and gaming apps? Have you ever given your cell phone number to anyone that you’ve met online?”
  • “Do you know how to turn off your notifications, and turn on your privacy settings within your cell phone settings?”
  • “Has anyone ever taken a picture of you that you didn’t particularly like or were embarrassed about? Have you taken one that someone else did not like? Think about how that feels if this person did not ask your permission to keep the picture or post it online?”
  • “What would you do if someone sent you a text or picture that was inappropriate?”
  • “What would you do if you clicked a link that you thought a “friend” sent you and found out that it did not come from your friend?”

 

Screen Time Conversation Starters

Screen Time Convo Starters

Conversation Starters for Younger Youth

Screens are virtually unavoidable. Not only have they become a critical tool for communication between adolescents (and adults), tech and the use of screens in place of textbooks, in-class learning, and at-home assignments hit schools like a tidal wave in recent years.  And let’s face it, sometimes allowing a child to have some screen time is also a coping mechanism for a caregiver to occupy their youth.

Start conversations with them about the positive and negative effects of screen time early and consider evaluating your own screen usage with a critical eye.

Conversation Starters for Preteens & Teens

Involve them! Discuss screen time with them, and help bring awareness by engaging them in evaluating their own screen usage. Preteens and teens are often more aware than we give them credit for, and may even have concerns about their own tech usage. Whether they do or don’t, helping them understand what their caregivers believe to be appropriate, healthy, and reasonable can help them monitor their own usage.

  • “How much screen time a day do you feel is an appropriate amount?”
  • “What are some ways that you can achieve digital balance? How can we start to set some of these goals for ourselves?” {This can include downtime, time limits on certain apps, disconnecting from social media, and/or reducing the amount of time your young person is on or picks up their phone/computer to check messages or posts.}
  • “What would you do if you accidentally clicked on a website containing adult content or inappropriate images?”
  • “Can you tell me some effects that you may experience due to too much screen time? For me, it makes me moody as I move my body less. My eyes also tend to feel tired.”
  • “Does technology allow you to connect with things that you are passionate about or is it hindering those things? Are you controlling your technology or is it controlling you?”

 

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