Many children, including those on the Autism spectrum, rely on electronic devices for entertainment and for basic communication. They also use these devises as a way of strengthening their social skills.
Often children who have been diagnosed with autism find communication and building relationships with peers challenging. Thankfully, technology has been able to bridge this gap by creating less intimidating environments and allowing children on the autism spectrum to find their voices.
Although digital devices serve an important purpose and meet a need, they also have the potential to expose our child to numerous new dangers.
Here are some ways you can protect your child on the spectrum from the hidden dangers of the internet.
- Make sure that before allowing your child on the spectrum to explore the internet, you set their privacy settings on all of their devices. – This sounds simple, but every site and device has different settings. We encourage you to make a list of appropriate sites that your child is allowed to use and go through each site to ensure you know what your child is looking at, reading or who they are communicating with. Set a password for them on their phones or tablets and make sure your child on the spectrum knows that passwords are not for sharing.
- Keep technology in family living areas. By limiting technology use in all other areas of the house besides public living areas you will reduce inappropriate activity and allow yourself to observe your child’s behaviors.
- Know who their “friends” are on social media. Encourage your child to only friend people they know in the real world, like friends from school, or family friends. For added safety, scroll through their lists and make sure you personally know the people they are connected with online and if someone doesn’t look familiar, ask them questions about their new friends, also ask their teachers if there may be a new kid in class.
- Make it a point to read text messages, social media accounts, and all other digital interactions together. This is important for two reasons: you get a firsthand look at the messages and your child won’t be alone if they encounter cruel remarks.
- Keep documentation of conversations: If for any reason you believe that your child is being bullied or victimized online, it is important that you document these interactions by building a paper trail. Take screenshots, save text messages, and copy all communication to build a solid case justifying the need for intervention from authorities or school personnel.
Raising a child that has been diagnosed with autism can be a challenge at times. Keeping them safe is always a priority. A great way to make sure you have your eyes on them at all time is to sign up to use monitoring software or programs that allow you to supervise your child’s cell phone, social media presence, and Internet activity.