For children and young people on the autistic spectrum, the internet can provide real opportunities for social interaction and learning as it removes some of the challenges of face to face communication.
Despite this, they can be especially vulnerable to risks online.
Many of our students have access to electronic devices, play online games and have social media accounts to communicate with others. This has a big impact on developing identities, friendships, relationships, passions and aspirations.
Breckenbrough aims to empower and protect our students by providing them with the knowledge to stay safe online. In order to achieve this, it is important that staff, parents and carers have a good awareness of the risks and dangers too.
Preparing your child to use the Internet
There is a great deal of guidance available on how to support your child to use the internet safely.
Essential Guidance Includes:
- Establish ground rules with your child about how they can use the Internet, when and for how long.
- Talk to your child about the kind of things it is ok to look at. A basic rule could be if I won’t let you watch it on television, it’s not ok to search for it online.
- Ensure your child knows to come to you or another trusted adult if they see something that upsets them.
- Talk to your child about the internet and ensure they don’t share personal information with others online.
- Encourage your child to use a nickname and avatar online and to speak to you or a trusted adult if personal information is requested.
- Agree that if your child receives an email with an attachment that they will talk to you before they open it.
- Talk to your child about rules for being polite and kind to others.
One way of setting appropriate boundaries online for your child is by setting controls on devices that connect to the internet. InternetMatters.org offers a step by step guide to make it simple and straight forward for parents and carers to set controls on smartphones, broadband, gaming and social media.
Create a family contract
Decide as a family how your child can use the internet, when and for how long and write it down and/or draw pictures. Clearly displaying rules and boundaries will make it easier for your child to keep themselves safe. Many children on the autistic spectrum struggle to interpret their own emotions and recognise risky situations. It’s important that you set clear boundaries for them online and communicate these in a way they will understand, clearly setting out what’s ok and what’s not ok.
More young people are using the internet to socialise and grow and it shouldn’t change the way you guide and support them. Spend time with your child, show an interest in their online lives, talk about what they’re doing online and reassure them they can approach you if they need support. A number of our students use social media, I recommend to familiarise yourself with social media applications so you can show support.
There are some useful websites for children and young people to access regarding internet safety:
And useful websites for parents are:
If you’re worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online, let CEOP know safely and securely by clicking the link:
Mencap have produced a handy document, ‘Learning disabilities, Autism and Internet Safety: A Guide for Parents’ which is free to download and contains lots of helpful tips on how you can keep your child safe online.
Online safety guidance