Internet Safety for Your Special Needs Child

Published on in Trisomy 21 Update

Technology is pervasive in our lives and is beneficial to children with Down syndrome in many ways. But the internet also introduces the risk of cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate material, access to interactions with online predators, and exploitation because of revealing too much personal information. These are concepts that children, teens and adults with Down syndrome may have difficulty understanding.

Here are some ways parents can maintain some oversight of their children’s internet activities:

  • Set up parental controls to allow web filtering. This can be done in several ways, including through your internet provider or cell service contract, directly on the device (instructions should be in the manual), and through site-specific services (offered by popular sites, including YouTube, Netflix, and Facebook).
  • Review the browsing history regularly.
  • Disable location-tagging on mobile devices. A GPS-enabled smartphone can reveal your child’s location through online posts and uploaded photos.
  • Teach your child that information shared on the internet is not private.
  • Review information that should not be shared (personal details, passwords, credit card numbers).
  • Explain the limits to online relationships. Emphasize that it’s OK to say “NO” to requests for personal information, photos, money, and joining social media networks.
  • Encourage your child not to delete messages, including those that are hurtful or don’t feel right. Tell them to save anything that they're not sure about and set aside time to review the messages together.
  • Ask questions! What websites do you like to visit? Have you ever seen something online that made you feel sad, scared or confused? What would you do if you saw something online that made you uncomfortable?
  • Learn how to use the social media websites that your child is using. Ask them to show you how it works and specifically how he or she uses it.

Additional resource

More safety tips