Teens and Screens: Resources for Parents
The video of the first joint SPARK and SSC@IAN webinar, Teens and Screens: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is now available. Here are some websites, books, and tools that might be helpful.
The following resources may help your teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (and other family members) cut back on the time they spend gaming and watching videos, and keep them safer online:
- Common Sense Media provides a collection of resources for helping children “thrive in a world of media and technology.” Though not focused on teens with ASD, the section on parent concerns addresses many of the worries that parents of teens with ASD have. They also have an article that discusses parental controls.
- Unplug: Tips for Parents to Help Students with Autism Get off Electronics provides advice from the College Internship Program (CIP) for parents of teens with ASD.
- A family media plan can help you structure media and technology time and allow time for other activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a tool, the Personalized Family Media Use Plan.
- People who attended the webinar mentioned a few tools for helping monitor and control teens’ digital activities. We haven’t tested these products, but you could take a look at Disney’s Circle and Dinnertime Plus.
- Some teens and young adults with ASD may end up in trouble with the law because of their inability to understand what they should and shouldn't be looking at online. The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law: What every parent and professional needs to know provides a cautionary tale told by a man with autism and leading autism experts.
Parents want their teens to have more technology education. One participant asked what they could do to get technology education included in the IEP.
Under U.S. special education law, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, which includes school personnel and the student's parents/guardians, has to consider whether a student needs an assistive technology (AT) device and service to meet his needs. For some students with autism, this may involve use of a computer or mobile device to help address needs related to communication, handwriting, or reading, for example. Here are links to websites and brochures explaining the process and law:
- Considering Assistive Technology
- Assistive Technology and the IEP
- Getting Started: Exploring Assistive Technology (AT) With Your Teen or Young Adult
What if the IEP team decides the student does not need AT, but the parents believe he/she needs more technology training in order to complete homework, for example, or keep up in school? Parents may want to ask questions about the school's technology education program. For example, does the school offer technology education to students, either in a stand-alone technology class or as part of other classes, media center instruction, or homeroom? If so, do special education staff members provide support to students with IEPs who are receiving instruction in technology? Does such special education support need to be included in the IEP to guarantee that it takes place?
Parents can advocate that a goal and objective be included in their student's IEP to address his need for technology instruction, to allow him to participate fully in his education.
In addition, the Center on Technology and Disability provides some informative webinars.
One person who attended the webinar asked where to find resources if technology education is not available in school.
Throughout the U.S., there are a number of summer camps, teen programs at community colleges and local universities, and technology literacy programs. If you are interested in programs that have ASD know-how, you can get some recommendations from other parents by attending a local gathering such as an Autism Society meeting. Or, you can always search the internet to find local camps and technology programs.
A webinar participant mentioned Digitability, a company that provides programs for schools and employers, and “teaches marketable, digital life skills to promote independence for students in a technology driven society and economy focuses on digital literacy for individuals with cognitive disabilities.”
What's your opinion of technology education in your school? Take our nonscientific poll, Does your school provide technology education to students with autism?