Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series of four about Social Media for teens and young autistic adults as well as advice to parents. Paddy-Joe, our resident young autistic adult reporter explores the pros and cons of using Social Media as well as things for parents to consider – both in sharing stories about their children with autism (this article) and how to monitor and assist a child in the use of Social Media. While the articles have a focus on autism, the advice is universal. Look for the next in the series this Thursday.
The internet allows people more freedom than they have ever had before – they have all the knowledge and information they could possibly want at the tips of their fingers. This also means that a lot of things are uploaded to the internet that people probably don’t want their children to see. But, could one of the most damaging things actually be something that on the surface looks innocent and harmless?
Parents always upload images of their children to the internet, or stories about them, and there are endless blogs, tweets and YouTube videos of parents showing off their children.
But what about things that may come back to embarrass that child later in life?
Not the types of videos where people fall over, or sing a stupid song, but videos/photos/stories of autistic people having meltdowns, or outbursts for example. If somebody finds out when they are eighteen or nineteen that a video of them when they were eleven, having an outburst – maybe screaming and shouting, or punching and kicking their Mum – was posted on YouTube and received a hundred thousand hits, they may well feel embarrassed and ashamed that so many people have seen them behaving in such a way. The point could also be made that of those hundred thousand people, twenty thousand of them may have recognised that behaviour in their own children, and a couple of thousand may even have been diagnosed with autism due to that video.
The sheer number of people that something on line can reach is amazing, but once something is put out there, there is no way of restricting who can see it. Even if something is posted on a private page there are always ways to copy, and re-post it. Things that are posted to the internet can be there forever, and it is important for people to think before posting something, not only how their child might feel about it now, but how their child might feel about it later.
There are a lot of very positive things about autism, and about autistic people that are posted on-line every day, and really it would be impossible for parents to make the decision before posting every photo or video, as to what impact that will have on their children. But some things are obviously more likely to become a source of embarrassment than others.
And again, some people would argue that before posting anything of that nature, the child should definitely be consulted and their consent given. Often parents will simply do things like this without thinking – meaning absolutely no harm – but in the end they may do something their child later wishes they hadn’t done.
There are plenty of reasonable situations for people to post photos and videos of their children on-line, and problems only really seem to arrive when they post something that the child may later find embarrassing as they grow older. The best way of dealing with his appears to be for the parent to put themselves in the mind of the child, and think what they would be comfortable having shared about themselves.