• A.C.T.

    A safety strategy that helps you advocate for others; “Ask, Care, Tell.”

  • Cyber-Grooming

    Using electronic media and the Internet to contact kids and form secret relationships to can lead to abuse.

  • Cyber-Safety Plan

    A plan for the safe and responsible use of the Internet, social media, and communication technology.

  • Disclosure

    Telling a trusted adult when something unsafe is happening to you or someone else.

  • Grooming

    The process an unsafe adult uses to build trust and draw someone into a secret relationship for the purpose of abusing them.

  • Personal Power

    The tools we have to help us make safe decisions that help ourselves and others.

  • Red Flags

    The warning signs that alert us to unsafe situations.

  • Safe vs. Unsafe Relationships

    In a safe relationship there is a balance of power where healthy boundaries are protected; the relationship is positive, rational, productive, and supportive. In an unsafe relationship there is an imbalance of power that results in one person being controlled and manipulated by another person; boundaries are not respected, resulting in a destructive and negative relationship.

  • S.A.F.E.

    A safety strategy that helps remind you to speak up when you need help; Seek help, trusted Adults, Face your Fears, Energize your personal power.

  • Self-Esteem

    Confidence in one’s own worth; positive thoughts and feelings about oneself.

  • Think Feel Act (TFA)

    TFA stands for Think, Feel, Act. Think about a situation, how it makes you Feel, and what Action you should take to keep yourself safe.

  • Unsafe Secrets

    An unsafe secret is one that makes you feel confused, “icky,” or not quite right, and that you are told not to share. Never keep an unsafe secret.

Letter to Parents



Personal Power – Self Esteem

Self-esteem is having confidence in one’s own worth, and having positive thoughts and feelings about oneself. Adolescence is a time when self-esteem may be unstable or negative. Some of the benefits of positive self-esteem include acting responsibly and independently; handling frustrations and emotions well; having a sense of pride in one’s accomplishments. Having positive self-esteem can help make your less vulnerable to getting caught up in unsafe situations.

With the physical, intellectual, and emotional changes occurring in adolescence, your teen may be feeling self-conscious and uncertain. Their self-confidence may be low and they may tend to define themselves through the eyes of others. This may contribute to low self-esteem and that can make your teen vulnerable.

Positive self-talk is a useful tool to reframe a negative into a positive. Parents can model this for their teens. For example, a teen says, “I am so dumb!” A parent can say, “You’re still learning. I know that you will get it!” Positive reinforcement and descriptive praise have a great impact on your teen’s self-esteem.

Talk with your teen about the fact that they have the personal power within them to make choices and decisions that keep them safe. They can use that personal power to recognize red flags that alert them to unsafe situations for themselves or others.

Early adolescence is a challenging time for both “tweens” and parents. As young adolescents strive to grow up and be “..independent – an important developmental step – they..” don’t yet have the emotional maturity or strategies to handle difficult situations they may encounter. Keeping the lines of communication open and making sure your teen knows they can ALWAYS talk with you about anything is an important part of being a trusted adult in your teen’s life.


Think, Feel, Act

Help your teen listen to their Guiding Voice and use the Think, Feel, Act strategy in any confusing or unsafe situation.

  • Introduce your teen to the concept of a “Guiding Voice” – the little voice inside them that helps them decide if a situation is safe or unsafe.
  • Encourage your teen to pay attention to what his or her Guiding Voice says in any situation.
  • Discuss the safety process of Think, Feel, Act (TFA) as what they would Think in any unsafe or confusing situation, how that situation would make them Feel, and what Action they would take.
  • TFA encourages your teen to take steps to tell someone when a situation makes them feel confused, scared, uncomfortable, or threatened.

Asking your teen what they think about possible situations helps them envision what they might do if a situation like that ever happened to them. By asking them what they think and feel about something before and after the situation, it lets your teen know that they can talk with you about anything, and that you are there to help them figure out what to do. By regularly engaging your teen in such conversations, your teen is more likely to come to you with real-life situations that occur, ask more questions, and gain your input.

  • In various situations that come up, ask your teen what they are thinking and feeling-whether at the grocery store, home, or during extracurricular activities. “Ask them, based upon their feelings, how they and you – depending on the situation – should act.”
  • Whenever your teen asks, “Mom, what about….” ask them what they think and feel about it first, before you give them your answer. Also, ask if their Guiding Voice has told them anything lately and ask if they listened to it.


Safe & Unsafe Relationships

Most adults in positions of authority who interact with young people use their power wisely – working to ensure safety, development, and education. Unfortunately, some adults use this power to manipulate and groom young people for unsafe relationships by creating a feeling of intimacy (“This will be our little secret” or “No one understands you like I do”), using intimidation and threats (“If you tell, no one will believe you” or “If you tell, you’ll get in trouble – they’ll think you asked for what happened”), or promises (“I’ll help you get into college” or “I’ll help your mom pay rent”). Adults should never use their positions of power to threaten, trick, intimidate, or abuse a child or teen.

No one should ask a young person to keep a secret from their trusted adults. Since 90% of sexual abusers are known to the teen either as family members, family friend, neighbor, babysitter, teacher, coach, or youth leader, it’s important for a teen to have a variety of trusted adults to whom they can turn for help.

It’s also important for adults to understand that sexual abuse can be confusing for children and teens. Sexual touches may physically feel good, but be psychologically confusing. It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your children about safe and unsafe relationships, secrets, and touches.

Discuss the common grooming behaviors below with your teen and apply the Think, Feel, Act strategy (What do you Think? How would you Feel? What would you do/how would you Act?).

  • What if an adult gave you special gifts, favors, or treatment?
  • What if they asked you to keep these things a secret?
  • What if an adult tried to be alone with you?
  • What if an adult worked hard to gain your trust and access to you?
  • What if an adult touched you in ways that made you feel unsafe? Maybe at first, they gave you a touch on your body – your arm or back – that seemed normal, but then the ways they touched you made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe?
  • What if a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or adult was especially controlling in a relationship?
  • What if an adult talked about things they shouldn’t in front of you? Sex, drugs, or alcohol?
  • What if an adult gave you drugs or alcohol, or left sexual magazines or videos out for you to access?
  • What if a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or adult threatened or tricked you?
  • Scenario – Feel: He or she might feel happy and excited to have the game, but confused about why it should stay a secret. The secrecy may make your teen feel uncomfortable or nervous.

Discuss the following scenario with your teen:

Your teen has been helping out a neighbor lately by running errands for them. Your neighbor gives your teen an expensive gaming system to thank them. Then the neighbor tells your teen, “Let’s not tell your mom. This will be our secret.”

Think: What does your teen think? Is this the neighbor’s way of showing how much they appreciate the help?

Feel: He or she might feel happy and excited to have the game.

Act: You teen should thank them and let them know that before accepting any gifts from anyone, your teen will have to check with you. This scenario may not be grooming, but the neighbor should not have asked to keep the gift a secret. That is a red flag. Your teen should refuse the gift and then let you know. Grooming tactics often make teens confused, uneasy, guilty, or ashamed. Always reinforce that it is okay to tell!


Cyber Safety & Cyber P.L.A.N.

Technology changes daily and new sites and apps are launched all the time, so it is vital that parents consistently monitor teens’ use of the computer, tablet, smartphone, etc. While it’s important to respect your teen’s privacy, you have a responsibility as the owner and account holder of those devices to monitor the uses and activity of them. Teens should understand that it is a privilege to use these devices, and that irresponsible or unsafe use can put themselves and others at risk.

Good Cyber Citizenship is important whenever your teen is using a digital device.

  • What are the rules for the use of Internet devices in your home?
  • What are your safety settings on your teen’s digital devices? At this age, teens often want to explore information about sex, substances, and other taboo topics without the scrutiny of parents. It’s important for your teen to seek out factual information safely.
  • What should your teen do if they find an inappropriate website or see an image that is upsetting?
  • Do you know who is photographing your teen and where those photos are being posted?
  • Does your teen understand that once something is posted on the Internet, texted, tweeted, etc. it is permanent…even if it is deleted? Sending or posting unkind or unsafe messages or images can have major consequences.
  • Does your teen know not to share or post any personal information about themselves – address, email address, phone number – online?
  • Does your teen ask permission before posting photos to social media? You should have passwords to your teen’s social media accounts. Some teens create two accounts – one for private use with their friends, and one more public facing account. Be sure you know what your teen is doing online.
  • Does your teen understand that posting any personal information about others is inappropriate?
  • Does your teen understand that communicating with someone they meet online is very dangerous because they never know with whom they are actually communicating?
  • Does your teen understand that chat rooms are dangerous?
  • Does your child understand that they should never send unkind messages online or using digital devices, and cyber bullying can have serious consequences?


Ask, Care, Tell

Middle school aged children are old enough to be aware of changes in their friends’ behaviors and to help friends recognize questionable or unsafe situations. Encourage your teen to share their observations of others and concerns they may have with a trusted adult. When your teen observes a troubling change in a friend, they can apply the A.C.T. safety strategy:

Ask- Ask your friend what is bothering them and if they need help.

Care-If your friend responds by disclosing an unsafe or confusing situation, react in a nonjudgmental manner and reassure them that whatever is happening is not their fault.

Tell- If your friend is in an unsafe situation, help them tell a trusted adult to get help.

Discuss what to do if a friend discloses abuse. Your teen should stay calm and reassure the friend that the abuse is not their fault, and that it took a lot of courage to share this. If their friend does not want to tell a trusted adult to get help, your teen should tell an adult on their own – even if their friend asks them not to. Keeping a secret about abuse is an unsafe secret to keep. When teens disclose abuse to adults, it is important for adults also to remain calm and reassuring. It is very difficult for a victim to disclose abuse, so a calm, non-judgmental response is best.

Look for opportunities to discuss “what if” situations with your teen and review strategies for using A.C.T.

For example:

  • What if a friend tells you that she is uncomfortable when her cousin comes over? He is 30 and always comments about how good she looks. He tries to be alone with her and has bought her make up that her mom does not know about.
  • What if a friend tells you that his music teacher has given him beer to relax and begs you not to tell anyone?
  • What if your cousin seems sad and quiet? You miss texting and chatting together. She says that her dad won’t let her use the phone.

Ask your child how he or she would A.C.T.-What would he or she Ask to begin the conversation with his or her friend who may be in an unsafe situation? How would your teen communicate that he or she Cares about the safety and well-being of the friend? Reinforce the next step: Telling a trusted adult and getting help. Ask your teen what he or she would do if the friend begged your teen not to tell and to keep this unsafe secret?



Everyone has the right to be safe. No one has the right to hurt or abuse someone else. Abuse is never a victim’s fault – no matter the circumstances. Teens that are in an unsafe situation have the power to stop the abuse by telling a trusted adult until they are heard and helped. Speaking up is very scary and requires a great deal of courage. The victim may be apprehensive about how others will react – they may fear not being believed, that their family will be disrupted, or that they will get their abuser in trouble. There may be uncomfortable situations that occur as a result of disclosing abuse, but it is important to take action to tell and get help. When abuse is disclosed, it is important that victims are believed and reassured that they will be helped.

Discuss the steps of S.A.F.E. with your teen:

  • Seek Help–Victims of abuse should be empowered to seek help, peers can help friends in unsafe situations to seek help as well.
  • Trusted Adults–Abuse situations can’t be solved by teens; involve trusted adults who can help.
  • Face your fears–It takes courage to speak up, but it is the only way to create change.
  • Enact your power play–Remind your teen that they have the personal power to take action to help themselves and others.

If your teen discloses any type of abuse they are encountering to you during this discussion, remain calm. Reassure your teen that the abuse is not their fault and make sure that your teen knows that you have heard them and that you will help them. Immediately take all measures to keep your teen safe – call the Abuse Hotline and report to law enforcement.