Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Internet
Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects how a child makes sense of the world, and how they relate to and communicate with others.
For children with ASD 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 additionally vulnerable to risks online. Communication and social interaction difficulties mean that young people with ASD may:
- Struggle to distinguish fact from fiction. Many young people with ASD take things literally. Understanding the difference between fact and fiction is a vital skill when using the internet, where anybody can post content and it can be difficult for your child to determine whether it's true or not.
- Have difficulty in interpreting social cues. Many young people with ASD prefer interacting over a computer than face to face. Using social networks safely, however, can be particularly difficult for them as they may struggle to interpret online chat or spot the signs of abuse.
- Be easily manipulated by others. It is common for people with ASD to develop obsessions or specialist knowledge in a particular topic as a way of helping them cope with everyday life. People with autism can develop many different obsessions but computers is one of the more common ones. This can increase their vulnerability to becoming involved in cybercrime and being exploited as a ‘computer hacker’ by others.
Many children with ASD 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.