*This post originally appeared on staysafeonline.org on June 22nd

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. Online 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 (ex. 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. Yet, whether it’s the national chain or the small, independently owned gear shops that have been here for decades, 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 is 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 in the lives of children and youth, we need to remain mindful that online activities are important–both socially and emotionally. Feeling connected to peers and topics of interest relate to 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. Our conversations are stronger 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 that they can come to us knowing that we are here to help them navigate the unknown.
  • In this together: like generations before us, 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 perspective–even 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 journey to theirs is not helpful or appropriate. Our youth are navigating online situations that we have not, most likely, experienced before.
  • Sweat the small stuff: the “small” conversations matter. They are building blocks to what’s coming down the trail. When your younger child wants to talk about their online gaming platform or latest challenge, 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 and it calls for intentional support both in how we frame and support the conversations and in what tools we provide for their adventures. In celebration of online safety month, we put together an infographic (in Spanish, too) that you can use to talk with your family and friends about gearing up for the online journey ahead.

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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 families and individuals.