That’s what I told a group of 5th-12th graders at summer camp last week.  “Safety is about authenticity.”  I was presenting information entitled “Safety … For Millennials.” But I opened with authenticity. Be authentic about who you are, where you want to go, who you want to be with and what you want to do. Trust your instincts. Follow your gut. Be authentic.

Surprisingly, they were engaged. And after a brief discussion on how I was probably shorter than most of the campers in the room, we made great progress! What can I say? I’m five-foot-nothing on a good day so I wore my tallest wedges to meet this group of kids. AAAANNNNND they totally called me out for wearing ridiculous footwear in a cabin setting!

I wanted them to learn the myths and facts of safety regarding kidnapping, trafficking, stranger danger, crime rates, and predators. Which they were already fairly knowledgeable about.

We talked (briefly) about general body safety. I had to work hard to overcome my preschool teacher past and tell them that their body is amazing and private. Instead we went with trust your own instincts to protect your body. When you get a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach … that is your brain telling you something is dangerous, or at least not right.

Instead of stranger danger we talked about “tricky people.” And learned about the red flags of someone who does not have good intentions towards you. We talked through different scenarios and things that an adult (or another kid) might do that would be a warning sign to you that they aren’t making safe choices.

This group of smarty-pant campers was surprised when I called them “digital natives.” To be fair, this was a group of students from the Snoqualmie Tribe. So they were like, “natives or natives?” And I was like, “You guys are KILLING me here! Digital natives!” So after dissecting the ins and outs of growing up in our technological world we worked through safety tips for using computers, tablets, smart phones and apps. Navigating the internet is a lifelong skill all students need. Doing it safely requires a bit of forethought and some solid decision making.

Being home alone is all fun and games until something goes SIDEWAYS! So we brainstormed through different potential problems that could arise. My final answer to them was, “We’ve covered a million scenarios … I’m not trying to tell you exactly what to do if the house is on fire, you get injured or a friend tries to come over. But I am going to tell you that staying home alone is your first foot in the door towards gaining more responsibility and more freedom. Think about it before hand. Know the rules. Follow the rules. If you get this right your parents will be impressed and more open to other things you would like to do.”

Sleepovers are fun. And horrible. And so likely to end in tears, or trouble, or grounding, or flashing lights! Good grief! Okay, but kids want to go to them anyway. So we discussed the questions to ask yourself beforehand and then how to get out of it if you are uncomfortable at any point during the night.

Our last topic of the day seemed to catch them off guard a bit. Protecting younger kids: they are annoying and you don’t really want to deal with them …. but those younger kids need your protection. So I buttered them up with compliments about their wisdom, knowledge and street smarts. (yup, I was totally laughing on the inside, but I said all of those things anyway!) I reminded them that you don’t have to be an adult to be a hero. Guard younger children, and know when to ask for help from a safe adult.

Guess what? As an adult, teacher and parent I already have three strikes against me. As far as teenagers are concerned.   And I told the kids that I know that and I get it. Sometimes your parents or teachers feel like the bad guy. They feel like the enemy. But when it comes to safety you’re going to need help from an adult. So if you won’t talk to one, you probably have at least one crazy friend who will. If something is going on, please tell that crazy friend.

So, this all makes it sound like I crushed it and the safety presentation was a huge success. That’s because I haven’t told you about our closing question and answer session yet. After I share all of my contact info with them and say …. “So, what questions do you have about any of that?”  nothing happened.  All the kids just sat there looking at me and each other. Until finally there was a brave boy in the back who raised his hand and asked a question:

“How old ARE you?!?”

That was the question from the group.  That was the only question they had for me after I poured out my heart and soul to them for 60 minutes.

Kids these days …… they’re …. awesome!

Even more awesome was the hand-made dream catcher I was gifted.  Many, many thanks to the Snoqualmie Tribe.  We are honored that you invited us to speak with your campers and so dang proud that people in the community are investing in our children and their safety!