As parents, we have a lot on our plates. We often feel as though we’re already doing all.the.things. And, one thing that might fall to the bottom of our many to-do lists is approaching the topic of online safety for our kids. It’s a vast and somewhat frightening topic. Many of us understand its importance but don’t know where to start to even educate ourselves. Luckily, there’s an incredibly approachable and intelligent expert who studies the topic and creates informative content.
Enter: Fareedah Shaheed, or @CyberFareedah as she’s known to her thousands of loyal followers. She breaks information down in a non-judgemental way for parents and caretakers. Among her many accolades, she is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and was named ‘Cybersecurity Personality of the Year in 2020.’ Her work has been featured in Cisco, NASA, FOX 25, FOX 46, FOX Carolina, The Grio, Yahoo!, AfroTech, and many more outlets nationwide. We sat down with Fareedah about why she’s so passionate about what she does and why it’s so important.
HG: What sparked your interest in online safety?
Fareedah Shaheed: My interest in online safety sparked when I realized that it was more about human psychology than tech.
HG: What question do you get most frequently from parents looking to protect their kids online?
FS: One of the most common questions I get is, how to make kids understand how dangerous the online world is. My answer is to always lean towards stories that show the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful of the online world. This way you’re giving the “why” behind your concerns. If you’re concerned about how much information they post online, give them real stories of what happens when people post too much information online.
Your kids are coming to you with their view of the online space, and you’re coming with your own, and the thing is, both views are correct. So when they come to you with their views, be sure to listen to them and make room for their experiences. This creates a better and more open conversation about the dangers of the online space, while also holding space for the awesome parts of the online world. By approaching your online safety concerns in this way, you’re making it easier for them to come to you when they feel uncomfortable or need your guidance.
HG: What’s the best age to start exploring the topic of online safety?
FS: As soon as possible! Often we show kids how to interact with tech by how we use it ourselves. So while you should start to have safety conversations early and frequently, you should also think about your own online habits. Another great thing to do is start planning how you will approach different online safety topics in your household and try to involve your kids in this conversation by asking their opinions or experiences.
HG: If parents feel overwhelmed, where could they start?
FS: Parents should start by connecting with their kids. This means listening to them and making sure they don’t feel judged or alienated when it comes to their relationship with you. No relationship will be perfect, but the more you work on healing yourself and your relationship with your kids, the better able you are to protect them online.
HG: Tell us more about the Safe Kids Movement.
FS: The Safe Kids Movement is an all-in-one resource center for parents to keep their kids safe in the digital world while building closer relationships with their kids. I created the Safe Kids Movement (SKM) to give parents customized guidance when it comes to protecting their kids online. SKM is a membership with videos for both parents and your kids, checklists, guidance, and discussions all geared towards supporting you in your digital parenting journey. We cover online gaming, social media, and general internet safety and security. You can discover more at safekidsmovement.com
HG: What are you working on now that you’re the proudest of and why?
FS: I’m working on creating more videos for my CyberFareedah YouTube channel. I’m so proud of it because it’s always been a goal of mine to create a channel that is based on holistic online safety. Holistic online safety means giving your kids the freedom that they want and the safety that they need. The Safe Kids Movement and even all my other online resources are also heavily based on holistic online safety!
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HG: Where can parents go to find you online?
FS: They can find me with my @CyberFareedah username on all platforms or my website cyberfareedah.com. If they have any questions for me they can text me at +1 (202) 918-5154.
HG: Anything else you’d like parents and caretakers to know?
FS: I would love more parents and caretakers to know that they don’t need to know more than their kids to protect them online. It’s important that you make time for yourself and your own healing so you can be a better guide for your kids. Online safety is bigger than tech: it’s about people, relationships, habits, and mindsets. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed please reach out and ask questions! You were never meant to do this on your own!