Social Media for Children with Special Needs

By : |April 8, 2016 0

Social media is a platform where we learn to communicate and engage with others. The same platform holds the world full of opportunities for children with special needs, children who otherwise have little to call social life. Social media, when used within parameters and guidance, can be a source of learning, particularly for such kids.

Kortney Peagram, a psychologist, says special need students can definitely benefit from social media. For kids who can’t be touched, or who can’t look people in the eye, digital networks are a chance to share pictures and interests, and an opportunity to have a social life.

All we have to do to help these children is: “Discuss, monitor, and educate.”

Peagram has created a guideline for parents and teachers who want to help children who may struggle with communication and stay safe online:-

 

Structure the time your child spends online.

Addiction to social media is a rampant issue these days, especially with teens and youth.

Peagram suggests that teachers and parents build a couple of blocks into the day for phone use, and limit social media to those times.

In her classroom, she uses phone checks as a reward. If a student completes his/her worksheets and does all activities, then he/she gets a five minute phone-use period at the end of class.

Ultimately, she recommends device use three to five times a day, for 5-30 minutes at a time.At home, she suggests phones be kept and charged in a common area, so kids don’t bring them to bed and lose sleep online.

 

Rule Book:

A clear and concise set of rules is a must for any kid in the school. It mustn’t be too long to overwhelm children but should have specifics clearly laid down with pictures and examples.

The key rule should be: Keep private things private.

Peagram tries to help them recognize potentially dangerous situations, like sexting, explaining they shouldn’t do things online that they wouldn’t do at the bus stop.

“They’re embarrassed, but they don’t know why they should be embarrassed,” she explains. To help them understand, she draws on the recent Pixar film, Inside Out, using the emotion characters to explain the sadness and disgust feelings that might come from posting nude pictures. She uses the analogy of a photocopier to explain how those pictures might spread.

 

Consistency is important.

Stick to the rules and schedules, if you have made any promise, then fulfill the promise.

Special education teachers shouldn’t promise that there will be 5 minutes of phone time at the end of class, and then not give that time. “It’s hard for them to understand and breaks down the trust.”

And repetition is key. In her classroom,Peagram will play songs and games about the social media rules, to make sure that they are remembered.

 

Monitor the sites your kid is using.

Parents and teachers can monitor a students’ circle of friends for clear warning signs, like big age differences, accounts that seem fake, or people posting inappropriate material.

According to Peagram, limiting special needs students to safer sites with moderators and filters is not necessary. Those sites tend to be more child-oriented, she says and aren’t suited for the teenagers she works with. “They like to talk about clothes and boys,” she says, “They’re as drama fueled as any teen. But sometimes they don’t have the processing ability.”

Filters can also limit self-moderation, so students won’t learn what they can and can’t talk about. “If you don’t teach them the right skills, they’ll never learn them,” Peagram says.

 

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