Should My Special Needs Child Have a Smartphone?
Another topic I get asked about a lot is phones, and the internet and social media apps available on phones. I have several clients who have phones. Some of them do not have access to social media on their phone; their phone is simply to be able to text a parent or to be reachable.
Can They Keep Up With It?
If a child is going to have phone access, the first rule they need to learn is how not to lose their phone! They need to be able to take their jackets and backpacks and things like that to school and bring them back home, without losing anything. I recommend testing the child with the phone at home first, to see if she can manage it at home without losing it. I have several families that give their kids an older phone that they don’t really care if it gets broken or lost, so if the child struggles with keeping it around or breaks it, it’s not a big loss.
Don’t Take To School
I also think school is not the best place for phones unless you’re in a situation where your child is going to be taking the bus somewhere and you are going to need to reach him. Typically, most of our clients aren’t doing things like that. But it can be nice for them to have access to a phone to reach you if they’re going to be going to a friends house, or somewhere like that.
Great For Games If Not a Distraction
The good thing about phones is that you can control the things that are on them. Many times we’ll put apps on their phones to keep them busy in the car. This is a great use for the phones, however, you then have to make sure they’re not using these games in the middle of a class or any other place where they should not be using a device. If the device is a distraction for a child, we ask the parents to keep the device with them when their child goes in for treatment. Another option is to have the child keep the device with her shoes. We want to make sure that the phone doesn’t get broken here, and that it’s not distracting your kiddo from treatment! Many of our kids struggle with transition, so if they’re on an app or a game they often don’t want to leave it. These are also preferred activities, so it’s something they’d rather do and this can end up being a distraction.
Monitor Your Child’s Phone
We really have a phone culture today. With that in mind, I think that phones are a great thing for them to have if they can manage them appropriately. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with having a phone. I’ve spoken about this before—we know there are a lot of predators on the internet, so if your child is going to have internet access you must monitor them. Many of us and many of our parents have become victims of people looking to make money on the internet. If you’re not socially savvy you can very easily be taken advantage of. I have personally had this experience with my own son, who is very high functioning. Our kids don’t understand that there are predators out there and that people may be trying to take advantage of them.
Talk To Your Therapist
Once again, if you’re thinking about letting your child have a phone I encourage you to talk to your therapist. They know your child well, and they’ll be able to let you know if they think that your child can manage having a phone.
I hope this helps you think through some of the issues that come up with the decision to let your child have a phone or not. Please let us know if you have any questions, and again, talk to your child’s therapist! They have great ideas for you.