Sexuality Education for Individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities

Internet Safety and Social Media

In this video, Dr. Achey discusses internet safety and social media as they relate to children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities. As a reminder, each of these training sessions are brief and should not be considered a comprehensive source on the specific topics covered. Each family is encouraged to determine what information and activities are appropriate for their child.

Internet-connected devices facilitate learning and education, communication, social engagement, entertainment, and independence. Adolescents can use a full range of connected devices, including tablets, smartphones, laptops/PCs and gaming devices, as well as multiple social media services like Facebook and TikTok. With all of these devices easily accessible and so much available through the internet, parents need to teach their children how to use computer and mobile devices safely. Children should learn about privacy, nudity and respect for others in a digital context as well as in their actual lives. They should be aware of rules for talking to strangers and sharing photos online and what to do if they come across something that makes them uncomfortable. Adolescents may be confronted with a range of online safety issues, including cyber-bullying, exposure to age-inappropriate content, contact from strangers, excessive screen time, online scams, accidental purchases and sharing private information online. 

The response strategies of an adolescent with an intellectual disability will be different from other children if they were to become uncomfortable with something online. Rather than reaching out and seeking support, instead a child may respond to negative online experiences by shutting down and avoiding the use of social media or undertaking a particular online activity. Here are several internet safety guidelines to discuss with your children and often. 

  • Never give their personal information to anyone online. Do not share an address, social security number or any information that appears on checks, credit or debit cards.
  • Do not give anyone passwords for your computer, websites or programs. Even if your best friend asks.
  • Make sure their screen name or domain name does not give personal information about them or promote a flirtatious nature within the name.
  • Never post whereabouts or schedule online. Ask your child to not post when they are going on vacation, to work or school. It gives people the information on when you are not at home. 
  • Be careful about what pictures your child posts on social networking sites. Make sure that the picture does not let someone know where you live.
  • Make sure everything your child posts online is appropriate. If they do not know if something is okay to post, check with an adult you trust first
  • Never send photos that are indecent (such as nude photos) to anyone, including people they are dating. You never know if the picture of you will end up all over the internet.
  • A friend of a friend is still a stranger. Do not share information with any strangers, even your friend’s friend.
  • Have your child be careful of what they write in an email, if they are unsure if something is appropriate to say in an email, have them ask a trusted mentor.
  • Do not forward chain emails. These are most likely scams and could be dangerous to your computer or others your child may send the email to. Do not be tricked by spam emails your child may find, teach them to be wary of something too good to be true. These are cheap marketing tools designed to sell something, or to give you a “free trial,” “discount offer,” or “amazing opportunity.”