Media provides so many good things especially for special needs children. It offers educational programs, a means for those without a voice to have one, and a place to stay in touch with far away family and friends. It also provides support from others around the world. This is the good.
However, there is another side to media devices that most of us are aware is bad. That is the issue of needing to make sure that children learn to interact with others face to face, not just in cyberspace and that they get outside for fresh air and sunshine and exercise. Many blame media devices for childhood obesity and other illnesses and most parents try to avoid the all day video games many of our children would enjoy.
Consumer Reports released the results of a survey in May that indicated that 7.5 million Facebook users in the U.S. are under the age of 13, and about 5 million are under the age of 10. Obviously, this is where things can start to get ugly. Social networks have been used for bullying by some and others are looking to harm our children in other ways.
That is why many sources recommend talking to children about the dangers and some suggest being on your child’s friend list. Others even recommend having their passwords when they first start using social media so you can monitor and help them correct mistakes before they become major. I see the value of teaching our children to use media responsibly whether they have special needs or not.
Young children certainly need to be monitored when they first start e-mailing, using instant messages, texting, surfing the Internet, using X-Box Live, or joining social networks even when they are thirteen. Parents also have to monitor television and movie viewing closely especially for young children whether they have special needs or not.
Those of us with special needs children may actually be better at helping our children avoid the pitfalls than some just because we have had to do this all of their lives. It is so important that all parents teach their children that the Internet is forever. Children need to understand that it can’t just be torn up or erased.
It is the job of parents and educators to teach children responsible use of the Internet. Children need to understand that there are laws that apply to certain behaviors and that they can destroy their repetition with inappropriate Internet posts. Anonymity does not really exist for those who break laws as any computer address is traceable.
Technology is a daily, graded class for sixth graders at my son’s school. They learn how to safely navigate the Internet, applicable laws that apply to information on the Internet, as well as, how wrong it is to cyber bully someone. They are accountable for their actions on the Internet, but parents need to remember that until their child reaches legal age, the parent is also accountable. Maybe we all need a class like this too!