Promoting Internet Safety Among Users with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Center on Transition Innovations, CTI, at VCU)
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In today’s technological world, the Internet has become an important and growing source of information and connectedness. The Internet is useful for many reasons, whether it is being used to chat with old friends, find directions to a restaurant, or read a movie review. However, individuals with ASD and their families may face unique challenges when attempting to safely navigate the web. It is possible for individuals with ASD to unintentionally break the law, however, a proactive approach helps keep everyone safe and informed.
Factors and Risks
Many factors have potential to make the Internet a risky place for individuals with ASD. These can include disparities between chronological and developmental age, poor or limited sexual education, excessive online time, isolation, and lures. Researching a special interest may unintentionally segue into accessing illegal pornography. Lures like pop-up ads and misleading language on otherwise legal websites can lead web users to access material that is exploitative and illegal, like child pornography. Deficits in Executive Functioning and perspective taking (Theory of Mind) can make it difficult to grasp why these videos are against the law and what the serious consequences may be for accessing them.