What If Games
Safety conversation starters with children and teens
“What-if” games are a great way to help children and teens think about how to handle potentially dangerous situations. Adults can use what-if questions to spark conversation with children and teenagers while they are in the car, at the store or during any other shared time.
“What-if” games are most effective when they are used often and in non-threatening situations. Keep the tone positive and provide lots of encouragement. Ask your kids the “what if” questions below and listen carefully to their answers. While there is no single correct answer, we’ve provided some key talking points you can share with your kids during your discussion. But don’t stop here. Keep the conversations going with some creative scenarios of your own – it’s a great way to keep the dialogue going at home.
What would you do if...
…your brother’s friend gave you $20, but said to keep it a secret?
You should never be asked to keep a secret from your parent(s). If someone asks you to keep any kind of secret from your parents, tell an adult you trust right away. It may be helpful to talk with your children about the big difference between surprises and secrets. Surprises are kept quiet for a short time and when everyone find out about the surprise, they are happy — like a surprise birthday party. Secrets are something you are asked to keep quiet about for a long time, maybe even forever. Surprises are okay and secrets are not.
…someone sent you a picture on the Internet that made you feel uncomfortable?
Don’t delete the email or chat, just turn off your monitor and tell your parent or caregiver about what you’ve seen. Never respond to offensive or dangerous online message. Depending on the kind of photo you were sent, an adult can tell law enforcement about the situation, or report to CyberTipline at (800) 843-5678 which also takes reports of illegal images/online crimes against children and youth.
…your neighbor offered you a ride home from school so that you don’t have to walk?
You should always check first with your parent or caregiver before going anywhere with anyone — even if you know them. You can even make a special code word that only your family knows, like “popcorn.” Don’t go with anyone who doesn’t know the code word.
…you told an adult about something that made you feel afraid, but they didn’t believe you?
Not all adults, even people who care about you and want to help, always know what to do to keep kids safe and happy. You deserve to be safe and to share your feelings with trusted adults. Tell as many people as you need to, like your teacher or youth group counselor, until someone understands and helps.
…someone is watching you and your friends play at the park and that makes you feel scared?
Always trust your feelings or your gut instinct. Leave the park right away, remembering to use the buddy system. Check back in with your parent or caregiver and tell them what happened. Your friends should also check back in with their parent/caregiver about why you left and where you are playing now.
…someone you don’t know is leaving inappropriate comments on your photos online?
As a kid, your job isn’t to make or enforce the rules—that’s for the adults. Check in with a parent or trusted adult and talk with them about what to do. You can delete the comments and block the person making the comments so they can no longer see what your profile. It may also make sense to report them to the social media platform you’re using. As an added safety precaution, set profiles to “private.”
…someone you know shows you a video that makes you feel uncomfortable?
No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable, and we’re sorry that happened. Reach out to a trusted adult in your life
to tell them about what happened. Remember that it’s not your fault that you saw that video, and brainstorm ways you can let someone know in the future that you’re not comfortable seeing that kind of content. Here are some examples:
- “Can you turn that off? I’m not comfortable watching this.”
- “Please turn that off. I don’t want to see videos like this.”
- “I’m not allowed to watch these kinds of videos. Let’s do something else.”
- “I’m done watching this. Can I show you a different video I saw on YouTube recently?”
…someone you don’t know online asks for a picture of you without your clothes on?
This person is trying to break your body boundaries and that is not okay. Stop, take a deep breath, and check in with your
parent or a trusted adult in your life. Share with them what the person is asking you. An adult can tell law enforcement about the situation, or report to Cyber Tipline at (800) 843-5678 which also takes reports of illegal images/online crimes against children and youth.
…a person our family likes is asking me to do things that make me uncomfortable?
No one should ever make you feel uncomfortable, no matter who it is. Find a trusted adult in your life and let them know what’s going on and how it made you feel. As a kid, it’s your job to feel safe and the adults’ job to do the work to ensure that you feel safe. Know that it’s not on your shoulders to figure out what’s going on, it’s only your job to tell. If someone you tell doesn’t know what to do or tells you not to worry about it, find another adult you trust, and tell as many people as you need to until an adult you trust helps you.
…someone I am dating wants to read my text messages? (For Teens)
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with this request, it doesn’t mean that you have something to hide–it simply means that it’s setting off your “uh oh” feeling. A healthy relationship is built on mutual trust and respect, and if your partner is insisting on reading your text messages, it sounds like something might be off with how they’re trusting and respecting you. You are allowed to have privacy in a relationship, whether that’s space of your own or having what’s in your phone for your eyes only. This is called setting a boundary. If you feel safe to do so, try starting a conversation by enforcing your boundary: “I hear that you want to read my text messages, but I don’t feel comfortable with you doing so. I don’t have anything to hide from you, however I want what’s on my phone to be for your eyes only and it’s important to me that you respect that. Is there something on your mind that’s prompting this request?” Remember that you don’t owe your partner an explanation for setting this boundary and it could be a red flag if they demand one or break this boundary.
…someone is saying hateful things about me on the internet?
Cyber bullying is never okay, and the hurt you may be feeling is valid and real. As hard as it might be, try not to respond or retaliate. The bully is looking for a reaction, and by not giving them that reaction, you are the bigger person in this tough situation. Make sure to save the evidence with screenshots and tell a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher, or school counselor, about what’s been going on and how it made you feel. Work with them to report the bully to the social media platform and block them from seeing your profile. Stay in contact with the adult who helped you and know you have an ally on your side who is ready to help you if it ever happens again.