One of the stories I often amuse people with is the time that my, then seven year old with autism, booked and paid for a wedding in another country. The whole package included flights, accommodation and cars. The first we knew about it was when we received an invite! This is when computing technology and kids can go awry!
Panicking, we asked him whose credit card had been used. He said that he started out just using our phone number and kept changing digits until it got accepted.
It was then that I decided it was time to move the computers all into the one room. I told the kids that it was to help with games and networking but really, security was my primary concern.
Keep Computing Technology Together
There’s a lot to be said for having all the computers in one room. For a start, home-grade wi-fi tends to be flaky. Cabling the family computers together speeds things up considerably while avoiding dropouts. It also reduces wi-fi bandwidth that is needed for fully wireless devices like phones and iPads.
Best of all though, it keeps the computers and the family close where you, the parent, can keep an eye or an ear on what is going on. It also ensures that your child can’t retreat to their bedroom to play and must maintain a bit of family social presence even when they want to spend hours on the computer.
Within hours of moving the computers together, I’d caught my son filling out an online application for credit! He was trying to buy Lego on eBay. I’d also answered more questions about tough topics than ever before – many of which I had to look up answers to. Moving the computers together is a decision I’ve never regretted.
Protect Against Inappropriate Material in Computing Technology
As a parent, I’ve always tried to be open about things. The internet is so full of objectionable material and ideas. I’ve always known that no matter how well I “net-nanny” things, the kids are going to stumble across certain undesirable materials. It doesn’t help that my youngest, now 13, has become something of an expert at knocking over firewalls, cracking passwords and social engineering.
The best that I can do is be open and approachable. Willing to explain whatever they discover and to talk calmly about the reason that it is bad, inappropriate, downright impossible or at least debatable.
Quite often, kids with isms don’t understand why certain things are inappropriate They may think that they’re funny or they may bring these topics up in casual conversation. Acting shocked about it simply encourages them to do it more.
I also have to be sure to educate my kids on the latest scams, personal digital protection and social engineering tricks to ensure that nobody takes advantage of them. People with isms are often described as naive and I believe that foreknowledge is the best protection.
Foster Safe Online Play with Computing Technology
While it’s scary for us adults, online play, particularly “play with chat” can be very useful for kids with isms. These kids usually have difficulty making or keeping friendships “in real life”. Online gaming and chats help to reduce the over-stimulation of real life conversations. Reading faces and tones is less critical online and this tends to level the social playing field. It also helps that many kids with isms seem to have an affinity for technology that is out of reach of those without.
Nevertheless, my kids have a habit of leaving cameras or microphones on! Then they get changed in the same room. Yikes! I’m constantly reminding them that they need to shut those things down when they’re not using them.
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Avoid Addiction of Computing Technology
Computer addiction is very prevalent with kids with isms and bedtime can be a bit of a struggle. If you find that your child is very tired in the mornings, search their room for “electronica” such as iPads, phones and Gameboys.
Make it a rule that all devices need to be charged somewhere outside of the bedroom and set up a proper charging station for them. You might need to go so far as to have a checklist to make sure that all devices are charging in the proper assigned space. Make sure that your computer room door is closed at night and that the kids can’t sneak in there once you go to bed.
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Apart from the sleep problems that addiction causes, it’s also downright dangerous to sleep with computing devices. You only need to think about Samsung’s exploding battery problems to realise that.
You might also want to see if your Wi-Fi router allows you to split your Wi-Fi between a public and private Wi-Fi. If it does, you can put your kids on the “public” one and leave the adults on the private one (ie: with a different password). Making this adjustment will allow you to turn off the public Wi-Fi without affecting the rest of the house, or perhaps even schedule a nightly automated “turn off”.
Computing technology is very important for kids with isms and the benefits usually outweigh the dangers. As the parent, you will often need to take steps to minimise these dangers. One of the best ways to control it is to concentrate the technology in a shared family space.