Internet use has many benefits and risks for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
A person with autism spectrum disorder is at a higher risk of internet abuse/addiction and cyberbullying.
However, you can keep an autistic person safe online when you are equipped with the proper knowledge.
While the internet is full of good content to discover, it is also full of unsuitable and harmful content.
Controlling the type of content that autistic persons can access on the internet is a way to keep them safe online.
Another way to support autistic people and keep them safe online is by talking to them about appropriate internet use.
Ensure that you let them understand that not all information should be put on the internet and that respecting and speaking politely to others is one of the ways to use the internet properly.
Furthermore, by monitoring the time an autistic person spends on the internet, you can help keep them safe.
When setting a time frame for internet use, ensure the time frame is appropriate and not excessive.
Read on to learn more on how you can keep an autistic person safe online:
A way to keep an autistic person safe online is by controlling and limiting the contents they can access on the internet.
Regulating access to specific websites or apps can help prevent internet use from becoming harmful.
Also, enabling the parental control option on the device of an autistic person, especially a child, can help you control the content they view.
Let them use apps and websites with parental control options only because it is easier to manage their content.
Similarly, allow autistic persons to use child-friendly browsers and activate safe search settings that can help protect privacy and filter search results.
Furthermore, innocent searches online may lead to not-so-innocent results, so it is wise to use the parental controls/search restrictions offered by web browsers and devices.
Although parental control is not 100 percent accurate, it can still help prevent autistic persons from seeing violent and inappropriate content.
Conversations about appropriate internet use can help keep an autistic person safe online.
As soon as a person with autism is old enough to access the internet, you should talk to them about what they read, watch, and who they communicate with online.
As a parent, friend, and caregiver of an autistic person, you may use the term PLAY IT SAFE, developed by the UK charity, Cerebra, to teach them about proper internet use.
This term teaches them not to share personal information on the internet, to inform an adult when they are being bullied, to alert an adult when someone asks them for personal information, and when to take breaks from the internet.
Also, autistic persons should understand that not all content and information is suitable for the internet.
Therefore, they should be aware of the content and information they share and how they should conduct themselves on the internet.
Furthermore, when discussing internet use with autistic persons, explain cyberbullying and how they can positively respond to it.
Let them know they can approach you for support when they feel overwhelmed or sad due to cyberbullying.
Keeping track of the time spent online is another way to keep an autistic person safe online.
Since autistic persons are at risk of internet addiction, their online time should be closely monitored to prevent addiction.
Before allowing autistic persons, especially kids, to access the internet, get them to agree on the time frame for internet usage and ensure to stick with this time arrangement.
You may increase their online time as time goes on and depending on how well they utilize the internet.
Also, as a parent, you may try making some days 'screen-free' to create time to pursue other active and less technology-driven ways to entertain themselves.
Interacting with their environment on 'screen-free' days can help autistic people build social and physical skills.
Although online use has benefits and risks, monitoring online use can protect autistic persons from hazards such as online addiction and abuse.
The internet is filled with different people from different parts of the world, and one way to keep an autistic person safe online is by keeping track of the kind of friends they make online.
An autistic person may find it difficult to make genuine friends online because they do not know who is who and what intentions those friends may have.
So, as a parent, caregiver, guardian, or friend, you must know their online friends.
Autistic persons can be hyper-focused and curious sometimes.
The excitement of finding someone ready to engage their curiosity online may deter them from recognizing online predators disguised as friends.
Furthermore, autistic persons may get angry if they feel you unnecessarily try to control their social life.
You should therefore make them realize the dangers involved with being friends with strangers online and even meeting up online friends physically without supervision.
It is impossible to protect someone from something if you are not aware of the dangers attached to that thing.
Therefore, to keep an autistic person safe online, you should educate yourself on ways to be safe on the internet.
Be an avid user of social networks.
Ensure you have enough information about the social network the autistic person you are trying to protect uses to find out how it works and if it is safe enough for them to use.
This can familiarize you with the network privacy settings and parental control functions.
Also, knowing how the internet works can help when talking to an autistic person about cyberbullying as a victim and a perpetrator.
Understanding how cyberbullying can be detrimental to their mental well-being may help them avoid or seek support when they are being bullied.
Furthermore, remember that knowledge is power, and you can only be helpful to an autistic person when you are equipped with the proper knowledge.
One of the ways to show support for an autistic person is by giving them the skills and knowledge they need to make the best out of the internet and avoid the dangers.
The aim of keeping an autistic person safe online is not to instill fear but to help them experience the many educational, entertainment, and social benefits of the internet.
You can keep an autistic person safe online by controlling and limiting the content they can access on the internet, talking to them about appropriate internet use, monitoring the time they spend online, keeping track of the friends they make online, and being internet savvy.
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