5 Internet Safety Tips to Protect Your Child with Special Needs


Today, Feb 5th is Safer Internet Day (SID). Great, but what is it? Starting in 2004, Safer Internet Day now spans across 140 countries to raise awareness about internet safety. For some adults with special needs, the internet can be a very dangerous place. So, we’ve compiled this handy grab sheet with 5 internet safety tips to protect your child with special needs.

Teach Your Child About the Risks of Using the Internet

Online resources, such as NetSmartz, will walk you through key topics to cover. They also show you how to approach these conversations in a way that will help your child feel as if their privacy isn’t being invaded. If your child has made friends with a scammer or predator online, they may get defensive in order to protect this new contact.

Here are a few main internet safety points you may want to discuss with your child:

  • Never give out personal information such as name, address, phone number, date of birth or social security card.
  • Use a nickname wherever possible.
  • Always have a parent or designated carer present when making online purchases.
  • Avoid chatrooms.
  • Never accept gifts from strangers.
  • If someone you don’t know sends you a message, tell a parent or carer immediately.

Set up Parental Controls

InternetMatters.org provides full tutorials with screenshots to help you set up a safer internet for your loved one with special needs. The key players are Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, but they have an extensive list of tutorials. YouTube has a separate app with parental controls built-in to make the process easier.

Make sure that GPS location services are switched off for phones, tablets, laptops, PC’s, and all social media channels. If you usually leave locations services on because you are concerned about your child, and the places they spend their offline time, the Kapersky safety app will track your child’s whereabouts without sharing it to other apps. There are also programs that will allow you to restrict usage to certain sites.

For phones, there are a variety of apps but your phone provider could already have a solution. AT&T, for example, offers the Secure Family app. Verizon, T-Mobile (Family Allowances, Web Guard), and other cell phone carriers also have services available.

Monitor Posts

At Stephen’s Place, we’re all about independence and nurturing people to live full, independent lives. There are some ways in which you can monitor your child’s activity without invading their privacy. Monitoring can help keep internet activities fun while guarding against derogatory comments, grooming, other forms of bullying, and identity theft.

Discuss Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can be horrendous for your child’s health. Cyberbullying means being marginalized and excluded or verbally attacked online. Talk to your child about cyberbullies and ways to avoid conflict. Ask if there are any friends either dealing with or instigating this.

The same as regular on-land bullies, cyberbullies are just looking for a reaction. So, the best thing to recommend is to say nothing, and know that the person has some issues with the negative way in which they interact with the world.

Note: To minimize the risk of derogatory comments on Facebook by adding a profanity filter. To do this go to the personal Facebook page > the three dots next to the activity log > timeline settings > timeline and tagging. You can add specific words and emojis to this area.

Find Alternative Activities

There are a whole host of offline activities that can help curb screen time. Go for a walk to your local coffee shop, visit a florist, take a walk, play hopscotch, make peanut butter bird feeders, and more.