Community and Internet Safety

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Intro: Welcome back to another episode on “what the AUTISM?!” This podcast is for anyone who is struggling with understanding what autism is and how we can better empower our autism community through research proven methods. In each episode, I will be sharing with you ground-breaking research and how the diagnosis of autism can often be misunderstood. If you are a new listener to our podcast, I highly recommend you start from episode 1 to catch you up to speed on various terminology and concepts! Now let’s get started…

Today, I wanted to talk about teaching our children about safety...safety on the streets and safety on the internet. We live in such chaotic times where practicing safe habits can never do you and your child any harm. There are danger zones all throughout our communities, and many of our parents have nothing but fear and anxiety for their children. I wanted to talk about some basic strategies to help our parents prepare their children.

First, let’s talk about community dangers. What will my child do when he/she gets lost while we’re out in the community? Will my child know what to do if a stranger with bad intentions approaches my child? How will my child respond when confronted by the police? If you’ve never taught your child any of these skills, I think the majority of our parents listening in are in a situation where they cannot entrust their child to make the right call in these situations, especially for a child that has an autism diagnosis. These are skills that need to be taught and reviewed with your child over and over again. If your child is in any type of treatments, I recommend you bring up these concerns with them immediately. A really good indication of a good treatment provider is that they would and should have already reviewed this topic with you. But if your child is not yet in treatment, I would start with visuals. Print out pictures of different safety signs and review them with your child. Then take them out on community walks/drives to have them identify them. For more complex situations when it comes to identifying dangerous strangers, I would start with the hypotheticals. Teach them strategies in the home by teaching them ways to avoid different strangers and how they could seek help immediately. When you feel like your child may have the basic knowledge, I would embark in what we call the “stranger danger.” Seek out close family/friends that your child would not be able to identify. Ask if this individual if they can pretend to be a stranger and have them probe different questions and information from your child. This will be a great way to see what your child would do in these types of dangerous situations. Also, a recommendation a lot of parents skimp out on, but I would highly insist on is taking a visit to your local police station. Get to know your local law enforcement. I truly hope that you and your child never have to face any dangerous situations that require the law enforcement to get involved, BUT you can never be too safe. Take a trip down to the station and make sure they have a face to your son/daughter. It may help you and your child in any difficult situation.

Now, let’s talk about one of my favorite topics: the internet. Talking about internet safety is a MUCH newer topic of conversation, but it’s a much more complex skill to teach and navigate through. If your child is on the younger age range and just becoming exposed to games and online platforms such as Youtube, I highly recommend you start with extremely restricted usage. There are online predators on any possible platform you can think of, and I don’t mean to scare any of our parents, but it is EXTREMELY important that you are more aware of the possible dangers in handing your electronics over to your child while being left unsupervised. If your child is younger than 5-6 years old, I would monitor every video they watch and every game they play. Do not let them explore different apps and games without your approval. As a child approaches 6 years and older, your restrictions are going to have to be much more complex. Trust me when I tell you that your child is 99.9% more likely to be smarter than you on these electronic devices. We live in a time where a baby younger than 12 months can swipe through apps better than some adults. And let me emphasize...all socials such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok are ALL platforms that need to be restricted. Your child should NOT be able to use the internet/electronics without you knowing. This means all laptops, tablets, phones, and other electronics all need to have passcodes that your child does not have access to. This makes it much harder on you, especially when you’re busy and you just need your kids to be kept busy, but I just want to remind all our parents out there of the risks that your child is exposed to when they’re left unsupervised on their electronics. As your child approaches their teenage years, if they have had a healthy relationship with their electronics and you’ve set very strict rules and boundaries when it comes to electronic usage, the dramatic teenage years will be MUCH easier. The earlier you begin to set these rules and boundaries, the easier it’ll be to protect your child from potential danger. I’ve worked with so many parents of teenagers that began setting these boundaries at a much later age, and let me tell you, the internet is NOT a very gracious nor forgiving place. Not only are we dealing with dangerous predators, but we’re also working through aggressive tantrums of teenagers that are addicted to their phones and tablets. Predators today are much more intelligent and manipulative in their methods. They’re often times much more approachable and friendly than they were in the past, and they don’t have a “predator” sign written all over their forehead. So for all our parents out there, whether your child is diagnosed with autism or not, please make sure that you’re teaching your child how to be a responsible user of the digital world. As someone who has worked with all different teenagers and children, I’ve had my fair share of some internet scares. I’ve also had to work with local law enforcement for some of my internet addicted teenagers. We live in a very tough digital age, where a simple click of a button can easily compromise the safety of your child and your family. I only scratched the surface when it comes to the topic of safety for our children, but if there are specific strategies or topics you’d like to be further review, please reach out to us via email and/or Instagram, and I would love to dive in deeper on these topics.

Ending: But this concludes another episode here at “What the Autism?!” We’ve reached our 20th episode! It’s been such an exciting journey getting to this point, and I want to thank our listeners for tuning in across 47 different countries. I’m excited to see the ways that this community will continue to grow and for all the amazing content ahead! I know that digging through 20 different episodes can be pretty time consuming, so I actually uploaded a quick reference guide on Instagram to point you to the appropriate episode for whatever topic you’re wanting to listen to. If there are any other topics/questions, you’d like for us to cover, please reach out to us via email or on Instagram. You can always connect with me via email at whattheautismpodcast@gmail.com or on our Facebook page/Instagram @whattheautism. We upload a new episode on your favorite podcast platform every Wednesday. Please note that this podcast has been created to discuss my personal experiences and opinions and is not a means of medical or psychological recommendations. But if you enjoyed this podcast, please make sure to follow and subscribe to our podcast channel, and I’ll see you in episode 21.

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