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Tips for Teaching LD Children About Online Safety

It’s important to talk to children with learning disabilities about the potential dangers of sharing information over the internet. Here are some guidelines about what your child needs to know.

Discuss unsafe information to share online

Even the smallest details can be pieced together and used for harm. Teach children about information that is unsafe to share online unless they are absolutely positive that the person they are talking with is a trusted individual whom they have met in person. This includes their real name, school, phone number or address, picture, or other identifying information. Make a “Do Not Share” list with this kind of information and post it next to the computer as a reminder. NetSmartzKids(opens in a new window) has fun, interactive games and activities to help kids practice and understand safe online interactions.

Make kids aware that what they post online is not private

Even if they think that only friends can see it, there is no guarantee that the information will not be saved, copied, or circulated. Assume that anything posted on the web is there forever. Accordingly, encourage kids not to post pictures, thoughts, or information that they would not be comfortable showing complete strangers (or their grandmothers!). ThinkUKnow(opens in a new window) has a CyberCafe and lots of other fun activities for kids to practice keeping information private and themselves safe.

Explore the subtleties of the written word

Statements meant to be funny or sarcastic can easily be misinterpreted online if they are taken literally. Help LD children understand the language of friendship(opens in a new window) and practice their social skills(opens in a new window) both online and off. Role play by giving them various statements and situations to react to, and then guide them through accurate interpretations and responses. Encourage the use of emoticons(opens in a new window), or visual icons that express feelings, when a statement your child is typing could be misinterpreted. Social networks that make safety their number one priority, like Woogi World(opens in a new window) or YourSphere(opens in a new window), are great places to practice.

Teach responsible online citizenship, or netiquette

Keep children from being pestered by cyberbullies or from becoming cyberbullies themselves by helping them recognize and avoid malicious online behavior. Use pre-task rehearsal to model appropriate and inappropriate interactions, and teach children ways to escape and report cyberbullying. STOP cyberbullying(opens in a new window) is an online guide to cyberbullying with content tailored to individuals of all ages.

Stay involved and set reasonable limits

Ask questions about your children’s online behavior, and encourage a continuous dialogue about their online experiences. Check their profiles periodically for inappropriate content, and place the computer in a public place in your house or classroom. Sit down with children and create guidelines for acceptable and safe Internet usage, post them next to the computer, and then monitor and set consequences for compliance. Use PBS’s Children and Media(opens in a new window) guide to learn about ways to encourage kids in their media usage while ensuring that they remain safe.

CITed. (2009). Tips for Teaching LD Children about Online Safety. Washington DC: Center for Implementing Technology in Education. Exclusive to LD Online.

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