What to Do If Your Child Is Texting Someone They Shouldn’t

By Andrea Nelson
March 26, 2024
teen girl texting stranger

It’s a moment you’ve been dreading since you handed your child their first device: you found out they’re messaging a stranger. You freak out. Your brain jumps to the worst-case scenario. Read on to learn what to do if your child is texting someone they shouldn’t, including red flags and how to help your child text safely. 

How kids end up talking to strangers online

The unfortunate truth is that it’s fairly easy for kids to talk to strangers online. Here are some of the ways that might happen: 

Gaming communities 

These days, most video games — both those accessed through an app like Minecraft and Roblox, as well as ones played on a console like Nintendo Switch — have an online messaging component. It’s a great way for kids to connect with friends, but it also opens them up to messaging with strangers if their account isn’t locked down. 

Direct messages and comments

If your child’s accounts aren’t set to private, strangers can pretty easily slide into their DMs. On Instagram, a recent privacy update means that strangers can’t message a minor’s account if they don’t follow each other. However, if your child didn’t input their age correctly, it’s possible that strangers can still send a message request. 

In other cases, a stranger might comment on a post and ask your child to message them on another platform, like WhatsApp or Telegram. 

Group chats 

If your child is a part of any group chats, others in the thread may add someone your kid doesn’t know. That stranger may be a classmate or a peer — or they may be someone your child shouldn’t associate with. 

Risks of your child texting strangers

On an instinctual level, you know your child texting strangers is bad. But what exactly are the dangers? Understanding the specific concerns helps you know what to watch for. 

The primary risks associated with strangers messaging children are:

  • Predators: Online predatory behavior may include grooming minors with the intent to sexually abuse them, sextortion, commercial sexual exploitation, and non consensual sexting
  • Scams: The amount of online scams targeting children has skyrocketed in recent years. Your child might be solicited over text by someone pretending to have a legitimate reason for contacting them. The aim is to trick the child into divulging personal information, like their birthdate, passwords, or your payment information.
  • Inappropriate content: It’s helpful to have an idea of who they’re messaging and what kind of conversations they have. Strangers can use their anonymity to harass, misinform, and even scare your child. Texting a stranger may expose your child to content they’re not ready to handle on their own. 

Red flags

Here are some warning signs that your child might be texting with a stranger: 

  • Secretive behavior: If your child goes to great lengths to hide their screen from your view or keep a new friendship secret, it could be a warning sign. 
  • Frequent messages from people you don’t know: If you do glimpse their screen or use a text monitoring app and see lots of messages from an unknown number or a name you aren’t familiar with, it’s possible your child is talking with a stranger — particularly when it’s coupled with other warning signs like secretive behavior. 
  • Gets irrationally upset when they can’t go online: Predators often create a sense of friendship or a relationship and may make demands that your child be accessible to them. Watch out if your kid gets unusually upset about screen limits or has a sense of urgency around needing to use their phone.
  • Changes to mood/personality: If your child is behaving differently or has a sudden mood change, it could be a warning sign. 
  • Withdrawal: Keep an eye out if your child withdraws from activities they once loved or friendships that were once important to them. 
  • Change in academics: An unusual drop in grades or lack of concern for schoolwork is another sign to watch for.  

Talking to your child about texting strangers

One of the best ways you can keep your child safe online is to teach them about the risks of talking to strangers. Use this three-pronged approach of empowerment, monitoring, and support.


Give your child the tools they need to protect themselves. Explain the risks of strangers online, and teach them texting dos and don’ts, such as “don’t text with someone who makes you uncomfortable or afraid” and “do tell a trusted adult if someone makes you feel that way over text.” 

Make sure your child knows what red flags to watch for, such as the person wanting to keep the friendship a secret or asking a lot of personal questions. If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, empower your child to talk to a trusted adult.


The following monitoring strategies work best when they happen together:  

  • Digital check-ins: Regularly talk to your child about who they’re texting, and occasionally sit with them to look at their message threads. 
  • Monitoring apps: A monitoring app like BrightCanary uses AI to scan your child’s online activity, including their texts and social media DMs. If anything inappropriate is detected, you’re alerted so you can follow up with your kid. 


Be clear you’re there to support your kid through any rough spots online and offline. Encourage them to come to you if they find themselves in a text thread that concerns them, and let them know you'll help them address it. 

The bottom line

Texting and online messaging is a common way for nefarious actors to target kids. It’s vital that parents know the warning signs and take steps to keep their children safe.

Be the most informed parent in the room.
Sign up for bimonthly digital parenting updates.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
@2024 Tacita, Inc. All Rights Reserved.