Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing,” and at Hueya, we think this captures the essence of youth culture and our role to support their online engagement – an essential and daring adventure. Internet Safety Month is a time to bring awareness to a critical part of our social and cultural experience, and yet we also realize few adventures honestly begin with a deep fascination with safety gear (e.g., online safety tools). Rather, it’s the open road, the unknown, the unfolding story and the opportunity to connect with others and ourselves in new ways that bring most of us to a place of exploration.
Hueya’s headquarters are in Bend, Oregon – a place known for a commitment to outdoor exploration, scenic mountains and rivers and a family-friendly way of life. Folks play hard here, and it shows. But, whether you frequent the national chain outdoor stores or the small, independently owned gear shops that have been here for decades, embarking on an adventure without serious consideration of safety is pure recklessness.
When it comes to supporting our youth and their online activity, we offer several key talking points – each rooted in our belief that families thrive when everyone is communicating openly, honestly and with shared respect for one another’s experience.
- Through empathetic eyes: As adults who play a significant role in the lives of children and youth, we need to remain mindful that online activities are important – both socially and emotionally. Staying connected to peers and topics of interest impacts adolescents’ growing identity and their emotional, social and cultural development.
- Pace matters: This is just the beginning of a journey, and our goal is to start an ongoing conversation. Similar to other life-changing conversations, discussing online activity is not a “one-and-done” chat. Over time, our conversations build upon one another. These conversations get stronger and more meaningful when they are rooted in shared respect and trust.
- Key role: We want to keep in mind that our goal is to be an advocate rather than an authoritarian for our children. They need to know and believe that we are here to offer support and guidance and they can come to us for help navigating the unknown.
- In this together: Technology continues to serve as either a divide or a bridge between generations. Our youth have an amazing sense of creativity, curiosity and innovation when it comes to their perspectives – especially online. We can learn from their understanding and we can learn new ways to connect and engage online from their guidance.
- It’s not the same: As much as we want to empathize with our children, constantly comparing our own journeys to theirs is not helpful or appropriate. Our youth are navigating online situations that we have not, most likely, experienced before.
- Don’t forget the small stuff: The “small” conversations matter. They are building blocks to what lies ahead. When your younger child wants to talk about their online gaming platform or latest challenge, it’s critical to listen. Very soon, this child will engage in increasingly complex social networks, and the “small” talks provide a foundation for future conversations.
Our youth are on a daring online adventure, which calls for intentional support in how we frame and reinforce the conversations and in what tools we provide for their adventures. In celebration of Internet Safety Month, we created an infographic (available in Spanish, too) that you can use to talk with your family and friends about gearing up for the online journey ahead.
About the Authors
Amy Howell holds a doctorate in education psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and focuses on early childhood education.
Lewis Howell is CEO of Hueya, Inc., a cybersecurity software company dedicated to providing new and relevant online safety tools for individuals and families