Safe Adults and Internet Safety

It is important for children to be able to identify safe adults in their lives. As adults, we assume children know who to go to when they need help. But identifying a safe adult can sometimes be confusing for children. When talking to children about safe adults, it is important to talk about the qualities that make an adult safe, what should be told to a safe adult and how to tell a safe adult.

Safe adults and Internet safety

When it comes to Internet safety, it is important for children to be able to identify a safe adult in their lives because it will mean knowing who to talk to if they come across something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.

Who is a safe adult?

Read the following statements to your child and discuss which ones describe qualities of an adult they could go to for help (Remember to discuss the role of an adult — that an adult protects kids, looks out for their best interest, helps keep kids safe, etc. Read more about boundaries).

  • An adult who you feel uncomfortable around. (Unsafe Adult)
  • An adult who has appropriate boundaries. (Safe Adult)
  • An adult who gives you gifts but touches your private parts. (Unsafe Adult)
  • An adult who asks you to play games that seem weird and inappropriate – games you would feel embarrassed to tell other people about. (Unsafe Adult)
  • An adult who you have fun spending time with and who always listens to and respects your feelings. (Safe Adult)
  • An adult who shows you inappropriate movies and lets you break rules that your parents wouldn't. (Unsafe Adult)
  • Any adult who asks you to do things that other healthy adults would not. (Unsafe Adult)
  • An adult who threatens to hurt someone you love. (Unsafe Adult)
  • An adult who helps you when you need it and respects your boundaries. (Safe Adult)
Explain that an adult can be fun to be around, but if s/he asks children to do things that are inappropriate or unsafe then s/he is not a safe adult.

What children should tell to a safe adult

An important part of personal safety is helping children learn what should be told to a safe adult. Many dangerous situations, such as sexual abuse, start with adults breaking boundaries with children and keeping it hidden in secrecy. Teach your child to learn the difference between harmless secrets and secrets that need to be told to a safe adult.


KEEP and SPEAK Secrets

SPEAK Secrets

Teach your child that a SPEAK Secret is a secret that needs to be told to a safe adult. It is a problem secret they are told never to tell anyone. Explain that children are not supposed to keep these types of secrets.

Examples of SPEAK Secrets include:

  • Secrets that do not have an ending.
  • A situation they are expected to never talk about.
  • Secrets about touching.
  • Secrets about picture taking.
  • Secrets about someone asking them to do something that is unsafe or inappropriate.

KEEP Secrets

Teach your child that KEEP Secrets include secrets children are told to keep over a short period of time that are fun and harmless. The difference is that the secret has an ending and will eventually come out. Teach your child that this type of secret can be kept.

Examples of KEEP Secrets include:

  • Secrets with an ending such as:
    • A surprise party
    • A birthday present
    • A surprise visit
    • A crush on someone

How to tell a safe adult about something that is difficult to share

Discuss the various ways that children or adolescents might tell a safe adult about a harmful secret and about an adult who is breaking boundaries. Explain that there isn't one right way to tell. Share examples with them of how some people tell. Ask how they would tell a safe adult if something uncomfortable happened to them or a friend of theirs.

Examples of how people might tell:

  • Some blurt out everything that happened right away.
  • Some wait and then tell what happened.
  • Some people start with a little bit about what happened and slowly tell the rest with the adult's help.
  • Some people tell a little bit to one safe adult and then tell the rest to another safe adult.

Important points to share with children:

  • It may be uncomfortable to tell.
  • Sometimes adults don't 'hear' what kids are saying.
  • If an adult doesn't seem to hear what you are saying, tell them again or tell someone else.

Why it can be hard to tell an adult

It can be extremely difficult to share uncomfortable situations and it takes a lot of courage. Share examples for why it can be so hard to tell.

  • Some people feel embarrassed or ashamed.
  • Some people really like the person who has done something that’s not okay.
  • Some people are scared they will get into trouble.
  • Some people are scared they will get the other person into trouble.
  • Some people don't want to cause any trouble.
  • Some people are scared they won't be believed.
  • Some people are worried their friend will be upset because their friend made them promise they wouldn't tell.

Important: Explain that it is never a child’s fault if something inappropriate happens at the hands of a teenager or adult. It is always the adult’s or teenager’s fault. It is their job to maintain boundaries with a child. The adult or teenager may be confused and needs help from a safe adult. Share why you think it would be hard for kids to tell.

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