In a digital world, communication via the internet is the norm, especially for teens. Since many individuals with ASD are often uncomfortable with interpersonal social interactions with peers, social media may be an accessible venue to build social relationships.
Although there are many benefits, there are also risks to consider. These risks include fixation on games or social networking sites; exposure to inappropriate material; predators; and cyberbullying. To help your adolescent(s) stay safe when navigating the internet, remember the following tips:
OCALI (Ohio’s Center for Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities) posts a Tip of the Month for individuals with ASD. April’s tip discusses using social media and strategies that can assist with staying safe on the internet.
Here's what they suggest:
- Set clear limits on internet use by setting a timer that shows how long to be online, searching websites, etc.
- Encourage computer use in a room with an adult.
- Discuss verbally and visually the dangers and consequences of visiting certain internet sites.
- Use visual supports to provide images of dangerous content/materials.
- Install pop-up blockers to block or monitor content.
- Provide a checklist of information that is not to be shared with anyone on the internet.
- Provide visual supports of internet ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts.'
- Role play scenarios about internet safety.
- Use social narratives, both online and created specifically for the situation, to help reinforce ideas on how to stay safe on the internet.