Safer Internet Day and the Neurodiverse young people of Cavendish Education
Contributions from Claire Bailey, Compliance Audit Officer at Cavendish Education and David Shearer, Computing Teacher at The Holmewood School.
Why the internet is so important and advice on how to keep your children safe while online.
Online games and esports can provide neurodiverse children a unique opportunity to socialise, develop important skills such as problem-solving, strategic thinking, and teamwork. These skills can be beneficial not just in the virtual world, but also in the real world.
Neurodiverse Children often face difficulty in understanding the world around them and navigating the social environments that they find themselves in. Often repeating specific patterns of behaviour, which makes it difficult to interact with others, so online games and the skills gained from them allow them to share their interests in a non-verbal setting. Social media can provide Neurodiverse Children with a buffer almost like extended time (think exam access arrangements) so that they can easily process information in the real world.
However, it's important for parents to be aware of the potential risks associated with online games and esports, such as cyberbullying, addiction, and exposure to inappropriate content.
Research has identified that autistic children alone spend more time on screen than their peers who do not have autism. About 64.2 percent of young adults with ASD spend their free time on TV, and video games and 13.2 percent of young adults with ASD spend time on social media sites, emails, and chatting (Autism parenting magazine February 2023).
To ensure their child's internet safety, parents should monitor their child's online activity, set limits on their screen time as prolonged use of devices is unhealthy for children, but its effects are more pronounced in neurodiverse children and teach them about online safety and privacy. Having the right balance of screen time and other physical and mental activities is paramount.
Another important aspect to consider is the representation and inclusivity of the games and esports industry, and how it can affect the experience of neurodiverse children. The industry is taking steps towards inclusion and representation, but still has a long way to go. It's important for parents to be aware of these issues and have open and honest conversations with their children.
There is lots of advice and resources available for parents and children alike, used in conjunction with schools PSHE and RSE curriculums there is no reason for our young people to be at risk online. Being open, honest and having clear routes of communication is key.
Some of the resources we would recommend are: -
The CEOP website has videos for parents, one here on gaming.
A parents guide for Esports, can be found here along with the general guide for users from Internet Matters.
As with any topics Cavendish Education focuses on, if you have any questions or advice you think would be helpful to share, please do not hesitate to contact us.