Many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find communication challenging, which in turn, can create a heavy reliance on the digital and online world. While helpful in many ways in connecting people, the Internet can open people up to a world where there are no rules or protections.
The most common online danger these days is cyber-bullying, which has spread widely among children. Here we need to consider two aspects: firstly, what is cyber-bullying and secondly, why are children with the autism disorder more vulnerable?
Cyber-bullying is an advanced form of old-fashioned bullying which most people have faced to some degree. It includes all forms of digital devices and supports online communication via social media messengers, emails, or simple instant SMS. Cyber-bullying is expressed in the form of finding out, sending, sharing, posting, even blackmailing false and harmful personal details to embarrass and humiliate someone else.
Children with ASD are soft spots for cyberbullies and easy pickings, as many experience social communication challenges and have difficulties with identifying hidden nonverbal signs of bullying which include:
- Identifying and recognizing own and someone’s intentions
- Expressing and detecting emotions and suspecting signs of bullying
- Not being able of what is going on and protecting personal space
Every parent wants to protect and prevent his/her child from embarrassment and harm, so here are some tips on ways to keep kids with autism safe online.
1. Share and observe, but do not invade
Your child is important so you want to oversee every single step. Many children with ASD are aware of their own maturity and become irritated and anxious if you do not provide them some level of privacy. When a child is good at dealing with programming and resolving complex calculations, you will deprive the possibility to develop talent if you forbid access to a computer. These kinds of radical actions will not work here. Build trust and communicate with the child in the same language.
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Children with ASD tend to interpret everything literally—that’s why messages from strangers can be distracting and potentially cause harm. Be very sensitive and a good listener as the child talks about what he/she wants to talk about. It is a slow process and requires your patience and love but this way you will get more than trying to promote your topic or initiate a discussion. Children handle their challenges better having a well-organized day and repetitive routine actions if something intervenes you will notice changes in the behavior.
2. Always stay vigilant of a child’s interactions
The digital world provides parents with a wide range of devices with developed apps for surveillance and care for children with cognitive disorders. You physically cannot stay alert and be with your child 24/7. But remotely you definitely can with advanced technologies. First, let’s consider how to be always aware of what is going on with your child and keep tabs on his/her actions. You can set up hidden cameras in their room, like radio babysitters, which have motion, sound detection, and online-stream to your phone.
You can also set up parental control on any device which is used by your child. It can be used for downloads and approval, as for checking the history of web search as well as threads of messages and incoming calls. In case you are suspicious and want to protect your child, just run the reverse phone number lookup. You can do it by just typing the number in the line of any search engine and get some matches. Or use powerful targeted platforms to find out more detailed information.
This article was featured in Issue 86 – Working Toward a Healthy Life with ASD