Many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find communication challenging, which, in turn, can create a heavy reliance on the digital and online worlds.
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 cyberbullying, which has spread widely among children. Here we need to consider two aspects: first, what is cyberbullying? And second, why are children with autism more vulnerable?
Cyberbullying 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.
Cyberbullying is expressed in the form of finding out, sending, sharing, posting, or even blackmailing false and harmful personal details to embarrass and humiliate someone else.
Children with ASD are soft spots and easy pickings for cyberbullies, as many experience social communication challenges and have difficulties identifying hidden nonverbal signs of bullying, which include:
- Identifying and recognizing one’s own and someone’s intentions
- Expressing and detecting emotions and suspecting signs of bullying
- Not being able to recognize 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 parents do not provide them with 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. 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 by trying to promote your topic or initiate a discussion.
Children handle their challenges better when they have a well-organized day and repetitive routine; 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. In his/her room you can set up hidden cameras like radio babysitters, which have motion and sound detection, and 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 well as for checking the history of web searches and threads of messages and incoming calls.
In case you are suspicious and want to protect your child, just run the reverse phone number lookup by just typing the number in the line of any search engine to get some matches. Or use powerful targeted platforms to find out more detailed information.
Valerie Malecha is the content manager at Spokeo People Search Engine. Her specialties are parenting, relations, and marketing.