A hot topic in any parenting circle is the idea of monitoring a child's Internet activity, assuming of course that your child is able to interact with a computer and the internet. While some parents worry that it infringes upon their child's privacy, others feel it is an important effort to protect their child. There's really no wrong answer because it is an issue that depends heavily upon a parent’s opinion and perspective. However, there are certain areas relating to Internet usage in which the parents of children with special needs can find value in being aware of their child’s activities to avoid significant problems.
One of the most common reasons for monitoring a child's Internet usage is for avoiding inappropriate content. One type of content, though, that can be easily overlooked is harassment. While parents in decades past may have picked up on abuse because of the literal noise caused or the marks left behind, online harassment is almost always silent. The truth is that cyber-bullying may not be obvious without any warning signs or clear red flags other than what your child reveals; the notification sound made by a positive email from a classmate sounds the same as a mean one. Even if you feel uncomfortable reading chat transcripts or checking your child's email, parents at the very least can encourage open dialogue with their child about these issues to foster a positive environment. By never asking and instead waiting until an issue arises, a parent runs the risk of being too late to make an impact.
We often recommend parents look into second opinions if they're not confident in the treatment being provided by a doctor, therapist, etc. We do this expecting that the options they will receive are carefully developed and backed by available research on the topic. Unfortunately, there's been a significant rise of information available about "miracle cures" for a wide assortment of conditions, including Cerebral Palsy. Shockingly enough, one recent ‘miracle cure’ that was featured on the Internet was uncovered to include bleach! Being aware about your child's Internet usage can help in preventing problems involving your child trusting the wrong information. This is, of course, a sensitive and delicate topic, but the fact remains, regardless of what medical treatment you have chosen for your child, there are many positive benefits associated with having an honest and open conversation about treatments. This can reveal, perhaps most importantly, if your child is unhappy with how certain treatments, prescriptions, etc., make him or her feel, as well as if your child is looking for or may benefit from a change. It may also reveal problems with therapists or medical professionals that require your attention. Abandoning certain medications can also cause significant health problems when done improperly and all parties should be aware if it’s being considered. With time, you may need your child’s insight and opinion in terms of how treatments are working, or not for that matter.
Finally, an open policy or communication in the house regarding Internet usage could help you with your role as a parent. Seeing what your child is interested in can help you break down barriers within your own home and help in relating to your child. Whether it comes to gift giving or just a potential common interest, you can learn a lot just by knowing what sites they read. On a more serious note, you may also pick up on emotional changes and shifts that are extremely important for parents of children who suffer emotional challenges associated with their Cerebral Palsy.
Ultimately, the decision is yours regarding parenting. Our goal with this post was not to require any position on the issue, but instead to point out some areas where common ground might exist. We hope that it encourages dialogue amongst our community on the forum and that it might highlight how important even the slightest details can be ... as many of you already understand from experience!
If you have not yet connected with our MyChild Care Team to see what resources and information we can provide - please do! All of our resources are provided free of charge. We hope that we can help your family like we have tens of thousands of others across the United States!