Fareedah Shaheed teaches parents how to cultivate healthy digital relationships with their kids

In our increasingly online world, it can be hard for parents to strike the right balance between keeping kids safe online and allowing them the freedom to explore. That’s why Fareedah Shaheed (@cyberfareedah) founded Sekuva, an online safety education company that helps parents and kids establish a safety-first mindset online, while also helping them connect with each other. 

Growing up, Fareedah loved video games, and often found herself in online chatrooms where she was the only Black Muslim woman. “I would be in a room or voice chat with 30 or 50 other guys and I was the only woman there,” she tells In The Know. “It matured me really quickly and I also realized that a lot of people had a different reaction to me being a Black female or being a Muslim female.”

Now, Fareedah draws on her childhood experiences to help parents navigate online spaces with their children. “So today, I use the same exact thing when I’m talking to parents. I tell them about my own experiences and why their kids still are in those spaces even if they’ve had negative experiences,” she explains. “We all love human connection. We all love to feel wanted, to belong.”

Fareedah started Sekuva not only to educate parents about online safety, but to teach them how to bond with their kids online. “The biggest thing I believe is connections over controls, so while parental controls and parental monitoring may have a place, you don’t want that to be the focus,” she tells In The Know. “The focus should be building a connection.”

Instead of simply monitoring their kids’ Internet activities, Fareedah recommends parents participate in their kids’ interests. “So, an example of building a connection is playing a game with your kids, or if your kid really loves a social media account, then following it and connecting with them on it,” she explains. “That builds trust and integrity, so you’re harmonizing between the joy and freedom that they want and the safety and security that they need.”

Fareedah wants to help parents protect kids from predators and hackers, but she also wants parents to be aware of less obvious threats, like the impact social media can have on kids’ self-esteem. “The biggest threat besides predators and hackers for kids online, honestly, is mental health,” she explains. “So often a lot of kids look at other people’s Instagram accounts or TikTok and they feel like they have a better life, or they’re more pretty or more successful, and so it really does impact the way kids see themselves and their life and career, and that’s one of the biggest threats.”

Fareedah hopes Sekuva will become a resource that parents can turn to over and over again, as their child’s relationship with the Internet evolves. “Sekuva actually means a well of security knowledge that you can keep coming back to,” she explains. “That is basically the foundation of my business, is something that people can keep coming back to for nourishment and a safe space.”

As a child, Fareedah rarely felt represented online, and it was rare for her to encounter other Black Muslim women. Now, Fareedah hopes that her work with Sekuva will inspire others who feel underrepresented and show them that they can succeed. “As a kid, when you’re looking at a screen, when you’re scrolling through social media, when you’re looking at Instagram, when you see someone that looks like you doing it, that affects you so deeply,” she explains. “I hope that there is a little Black girl watching this video and she sees and hears that she can do it too.”

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