Keeping Autistic Kids Off the Internet Does Not Protect Them, Teaching Internet Safety Does

My Experience with Being Banned from the Internet As a Child

The internet first started to grow when I was in high school. My mother had a friend from Shul who worked for the local cable company and we had high speed internet early. It was great except I was the only one not allowed on it. They were afraid I would give out the password. To this day, I don’t understand it. Thats not entirely true, I was always treated as less so it was natural I was not allowed to have internet access. 

If you tell a child they cannot do something, they always try to do it outside of the home. Internet was being integrated into my high school. I stayed after school to set up an email, go online with friends and things like that. Parents had no idea, which was great because I would have been beat if they knew what I was doing. Me being a disabled student in typical classes was a perfect cover for me staying after school and coming home late. 

Because of this, I was never taught internet safety. On the weekends I would go to the library for internet access. All my parents knew I was going to the library to do homework. I was actually on the computer on email and an adult told me about yahoo chat rooms. It was like cyber space exploded for me. 

I got to meet people from all over the world. I became close with this one boy who lived in California whose name was Daniel Craig. We lost touch after I went to college but he was the first person to make me feel good about myself. 

People actually liked me and I was able to socialize. I was an outcast at school so this was great for me. I did talk with some creepy adults and met one in a public place. It was scary and it never went further than that. Thinking back to that, it could have gone really tragically. I was 15 at the time. 

Internet and Parenting

After this experience, I knew that internet should never be withheld unless absolutely necessary. That is in the case of pedophiles trying to find minors and things like that. I kept this at the back of my mind until my children needed to go online due to school, gaming, etc. 
I know from my experience as a child, banning your child from using the internet does not protect them. It opens them for abuse and I got extremely lucky. 
Roo joined Cub Scouts when he was in 1st grade, 7 years old. There was a program called the Cyber Chip. This teaches internet safety that is age appropriate. It is a series of videos that shows real situations. It showed them the right way and the wrong way to interact online. This includes what information you give, what to do when someone threatens you, what unsafe interactions are, etc. 
Each child of mine has done this every year, well except Potato but she will once she is old enough. The content changes according to the child’s age and grade. It really does prepare them for hinky situations that come out online. 

How I keep My Kids Safe Online

What do I do? My kids do have phones as they are in school. I do not go through their phones. We have a mutual trust. We do have an understanding that if something “funny” happens, they are to show me. They are not allowed on social media until after their bar/bat mitzvah and we have to follow all their social media accounts to make sure they are safe. 
We have the iCloud accounts set where when they want to download an app, it asks my phone or my husband’s phone for permission to download it to make sure its a safe app or an appropriate app. 
Online games, such as Sea of Thieves, we play with them and they are only allowed to play when we are playing with them. One old man tried hitting on my teenage daughter. I was able to safeguard her that way. It was not a good day for that man, lets just put it that way. 
You don’t need to be a scout to access this program. It’s free. The program is called Net Smartz Kids. It’s by the Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Do this with your children once a year and this will keep them safe. Its a good refresher for adults too. I found this very helpful with keeping my kids safe online. 

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