As a parent of a kiddo with autism, it can feel like navigating the world of the internet is a whole new frontier. You want to protect your little one from any potentially dangerous or hurtful messages or content that could be waiting out there. But you also know how important technology is in their everyday lives and want them to have access to its benefits.
So, where do you even start? Introducing autistic kids to the internet doesn’t have to be as daunting as it might seem. With some patience, tips, and careful planning; getting your young explorer online can be easy.
Is it safe for autistic kids to use the internet?
Autistic children can enjoy the incredible benefits of being online just like anyone else, such as developing skills, exploring interests, and connecting with peers. However, they may face additional challenges in comparison to their peers. From becoming overwhelmed by too much visual stimulation, falling victim to cyberbullying, or stumbling across inappropriate content that they have no context for, it is essential to create a safe online space for autistic children.
Yet, the right tools and know-how can make the internet a more accessible and enjoyable place for those on the autism spectrum. After all, allowing access to something as rich and widespread as the internet could help unlock an autistic child’s full potential – if it’s done safely.
Autism and technology: How to keep them safe online
With the advent of technology, connecting with others has become easier than ever. But for those living with autism, using the internet and its related technology can present unique challenges. Unfortunately, there are cyber-criminals out there looking to take advantage of unsuspecting users, particularly those in vulnerable groups such as our children on the autism spectrum. So, to keep them safe, here are our favorite tips:
1. Educate your kid
Educating an autistic child about the internet is vitally important. Without proper instruction, they can easily fall victim to malicious websites and phishing scams. Yet the right education can empower autistic youths to explore the world, gain valuable information, access more universal learning tools, and network with other users, all of which can be done safely with appropriate guidance.
Teaching a child on the autism spectrum how to steer clear of online danger can also give them extra confidence and motivation as they progress in their online activities. At the same time, some educational advocates even view it as an essential step towards helping them reach full inclusion in society.
2. Create a set of rules
Establishing a set of rules about the internet for autistic kids is incredibly important. Not only does it help keep them safe online, but it also allows them to take advantage of all the wonderful things the internet has to offer.
Having specific boundaries in place can prevent kids from potential cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, or even identity theft. It’s important that they understand the importance of being careful while navigating cyberspace because there are definitely safety risks involved! However, if taught to use the internet responsibly and follow clear guidelines, autistic children can find educational resources and social connections that could dramatically improve their quality of life.
The key is striking a balance between providing access and establishing necessary precautions, making sure everyone gets their daily dose of computer time without becoming too attached to the virtual world!
3. Install filters and firewalls
Installing firewalls and filters on computers can be essential in giving autistic kids both peace of mind and security as they take part in activities like gaming or social media use.
Firewalls help limit which websites can be visited, while filters act as parental control to ensure that only appropriate content is seen. On top of that, these tools serve to keep viruses at bay, making sure your child’s and your information stay safe and secure.
4. Monitor them
Keeping an eye on which sites they are visiting and what content they are consuming is essential in order to keep them safe from inappropriate content as well as bullying and exploitation.
For this, it’s ideal to place their computer (or the household computer) in a common area where you can check every now and then what they’re doing. This doesn’t mean you have to be 24/7 checking on them. If you have parental controls installed, monitoring their activity will be easier, allowing you to be around just to double-check and provide them with instructions in case they need them.
5. Teach them about internet etiquette
Teaching online etiquette to autistic kids can be a fun and rewarding experience. To start, it’s important that caregivers spend plenty of time discussing different scenarios with their kids so that they understand the dos and don’ts of online interaction. Be sure to set clear boundaries early on—let them know what types of language and behavior are acceptable, as well as any other rules you may have.
After laying down the foundation, use meaningful activities like role-playing to reinforce appropriate online behaviors. This will familiarize your child with conversational cues in the digital world.
6. Have a schedule for screen times
By having a consistent schedule, parents can help their child identify and distinguish between appropriate times for using screens, like after homework is done or to watch educational shows, and inappropriate times which should be avoided. This structure will also give the child comfort in knowing when they will have dedicated time for enjoyable activities.
Moreover, since kids with autism can get overstimulated easily, having a scheduled limit for using electronic devices helps mitigate this risk and lets the parents take control of how much their kids are exposed to technology.
Autism and the internet: Final thoughts
The internet has undoubtedly revolutionized the lives of those with autism, providing a seemingly endless array of resources for support and information. It not only reaches far and wide, but it’s also deeply interactive, offering unprecedented levels of connection and education.
Despite the benefits that come with taking advantage of technology such as this, it is important to remember there are unique challenges associated with surfing the web. Social networking sites can be overwhelming due to an onslaught of interaction, while deep dives into certain subjects can be destabilizing to one’s focus and attention levels. The internet is certainly a powerful tool in the hands of autistic individuals—one that should not be taken lightly or without caution.
We hope these tips on autism online navigation help you start introducing your kiddo to the internet. If you want to keep learning about internet safety for kids, visit our blog!