Being a parent of a teen can be a difficult and challenging road these days. There are so many situations that parents in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s never had to navigate. Today’s teenagers have access to the entire world right at their fingertips. This can be a real challenge for an autistic teen.
What’s right vs. what’s everyone doing on Instagram?
Raising teens in this day and age is a constant battle between what is right, and what everyone on Instagram is doing. Right now Instagram seems to be the king of social media, but there are more platforms—Snapchat, Facebook and Pinterest—vying for our teenagers’ attention. I know there are even more social media apps, but I was born in the 70’s so bear with me. I try to keep up with the latest app stealing my autistic teen’s attention, but everything falls in and out of favor at lightning speed.
I will admit that I too have jumped on the bandwagon. I joined Facebook about 9 years ago. It seemed like the socially appropriate thing to do at the time. I will also, somewhat shamelessly, admit that I have spent unnecessary amounts of time combing through the various pages of Facebook and Pinterest. If you are from my generation, Generation X, all these advances in technology seem wonderful and scary.
With Facebook, one can connect with anyone in the entire world. You can have “friends” all over the globe. Pinterest is marvelous! I never knew there were so many ways to style your hair, bake a cake or create endless hours of fun for your cat. You can find a group in the pages of social media to fit any fancy you may have. There are pages for pet lovers, moms that garage sale and just about anything you can dream up. Of course there are a myriad of groups and pages for autism. I am particularly fond of Geek Club Books. Unfortunately, there are some pages and groups that foster negativity and misinformation about autism. I recommend steering clear of them.
Social media plays a huge role in the lives of our children.
Especially our teenage sons and daughters. It seems that today’s youth is permanently attached to their smartphones. I am sure I’m not the only mom who gets frustrated when Instagram account updates become more important than dinner.
I am still learning to take the good and the bad when it comes to social media. It is great for connecting with long distance friends and family. One can post a picture of a major life event and share it with everyone at once instead of calling fifty people. Social media can be an awesome way to reconnect with old friends.
Social media is great for sharing just about anything. Maybe that’s the problem.
It is so easy to type in a few words and immediately post it to your Facebook or Instagram page. As a society we often don’t think too much about what we are posting. In literally a few seconds one word or picture can be seen by anyone with access to wifi. This is why it is so important to help your autistic teen to understand the unintended consequences of social media.
It can be difficult for an autistic teen to understand that posts will never be entirely erased from the internet. I explain to my 16 year-old autistic daughter that what she posts now could have an impact on her future. I go on to talk about how some pictures are not appropriate to post online. She has had trouble grasping the importance of safe posts.
I help her stay safe by setting up some concrete rules:
- Never post pictures of herself unless she gets my OK first.
- The same goes for posting personal information…Get my approval first.
- Mom must follow her social media accounts and know her passwords.
- Certain sites I have completely blocked.
My daughter understands and works best with rules. I always explain why they are necessary and what the consequences of not following them are. She can have trouble reading the emotions of others and her online interactions could become dangerous or unsafe without specific guidelines and monitoring.
An autistic teen can benefit tremendously from being active on social media. It can be a less stressful way of interacting with other people and a great way to find others with similar interests. I don’t want to deny my autistic teen the opportunity to connect so I make it my job to make sure she knows the rules and how to stay safe.
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