Conversation starters for tweens

We know that regular conversations at home help to minimise the harm if things go wrong online. Research shows that parents are critical to the success of tamariki becoming safe, confident and capable in their use of use digital technology. So we’ve put together some ideas to help start a korero about online safety with …


We know that regular conversations at home help to minimise the harm if things go wrong online. Research shows that parents are critical to the success of tamariki becoming safe, confident and capable in their use of use digital technology. So we’ve put together some ideas to help start a korero about online safety with  tweens aged between 10 – 13 or those in intermediate school.


When you’re talking to your child about what they do offline, it’s a good time to talk about their online activities too. They are probably watching you interact online or doing things at school already, so start talking as often as you can. When you are about to post a photo, ask them where they think it will go and who will be able to see it.

Young people talk to people they trust and those who understand them and their experiences. For intermediate aged children this is most likely to be parents, families and whanau, but there is a growing reliance on their friends as they get older. Knowing what to ask, when to ask or how to ask can be tricky, so we have a few suggestions below:

  • Location, location, location: When starting a conversation, think about where you are and what’s happening around you. Look for a time when they aren’t going to be distracted
  • Keep it natural: In the car on the way home from school or informally across the table is likely to work better than when they have friends over.  The best conversations happen when they naturally arises or as part of other conversations
  • Ask open-ended questions: Try to use questions which encourage conversation rather than ones which ask for yes or no answers.  You find out a lot more from a “tell me about…” type question that
  • Lead with a request: Starting the conversation with a request for help about a platform or app can show your child that you want to learn about their knowledge which may lead to great engagement in further conversations.
  • Reserve  judgement: Listen and focus on what your child is saying, no matter how hard this might be. Showing an interest in what they are doing makes it easier to have more difficult conversations if a challenge arises later on. This conversation is about gaining their trust, letting them know you are listening and giving them a clear sign that you are there for them. If your child fears you’ll over-react (or freak-out), they will stop talking to you and look for answers in other places and with other people.

The approach you take will be different depending on the age and stage of your child – and what you feel comfortable discussing.


Use your judgement to choose the topics that are most relevant to your child.

Privacy & personal information

  • What are some things you shouldn’t share online?
  • What is the difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’ posts or groups?
  • What do you know about privacy settings? Why do you think they are important?
  • What would you do if you were asked for information that you didn’t think was safe to share?

Read more at online privacy and digital footprints.

Managing time online

  • How do you spend your time online?
  • How would you tell if you were spending too much time online? What could you try if you wanted to spend less time online?
  • How do you feel when you have to turn off your game or activity online?
  • What apps/ platforms or games do you use most often?  Why?

Read more on our website.

Online bullying

  • Have you ever felt sad or unhappy when you have been online?  What did you do?  Would you do anything differently now?
  • What does online bullying look like to you? What’s the difference between bullying and joking around?
  • What advice would you give to a friend who was being bullied online? What support could you offer them?
  • What would you do if one of your friends was bullying someone else?
  • What does being an “upstander” mean?  How could you do this safely?
  • How is an online friend different to an offline friend?

Read more about online bullying and banter vs bullying.

Social media vs reality

  • Do you think social media shows what people’s everyday lives are like?
  • What age do you think you should have your own social media account? What social media account do you want to go on?
  • What social media does your friend’s use?
  • How would you be able to tell if someone is getting paid to promote content on social media?

The minimum sign up age for most social media platforms is 13. Read more advice for parents about social media.Read more here.

Truth & tricksters

  • What’s catfishing? How could someone pretend to be someone else? How would you be able to tell if someone is who they say they are?
  • How do you know what’s real and made up online? What do real things look like?  Can you show me something online that is real?
  • What do made up things look like?  Can you show me something online that is made up?
  • What could you do if you thought someone was pretending to be someone else online?

Read more about catfishing and misinformation for more detail.

Online pornography

  • Have you ever seen any adult pictures online?  How did that make you feel?  What kinds of questions did you have after seeing those pictures?  What did you do?
  • What would you do if a friend or someone else was pressuring you to look at pornography online? Who could you talk to?

Read more about talking to children about pornography.

Sending naked images

Consider the appropriateness of discussing this particular challenge with your child – think about your child’s age & stage.

  • What do you know about nudes?
  • How common do you think sending nudes is?
  • Why do you think people ask for and share nudes?
  • What are some of the risks that come with sending nudes?
  • If you were pressured to send nudes, how would you say no?
  • Who could you talk to if someone was asking you to share nudes and you didn’t want to?

Read more at how to talk to your child about sexting.


What happens if my child asks me a question I can’t answer? You don’t have to have the answer. Saying “Where do you think we could find out the answer?” is a great way to explore together.

How do I know if a website, platform or game is safe for my child to use? Most social media platforms have a minimum age limit of 13+ so check terms and conditions carefully before letting your tamariki use something.  Talk to other parents and lean on their experience and knowledge, search or have a look yourself.  Download the app and use it – you will work out very quickly if you want your child engaging with.


You’re currently within the ‘Learn’ section of our Online Safety Parent Toolkit where we encourage you to find out what your child’s virtual world looks like.

This is the second step in our seven step framework designed to help parents and whānau with digital parenting in a rapidly changing world.  We recommend reading through each step of the Toolkit as this will guide you on how to support your child to confidently access digital opportunities and reduce online harm.


If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you want help or expert incident advice, you can contact us. Our service is free, non-judgemental and available seven days a week.


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