Online Safety / Usage

Online Safety



Many individuals with autism prefer socializing online over talking with people face-to-face, since it removes most of the nonverbal cues that they might have trouble understanding and allows them a degree of anonymity that blunts the impact of possible rejection. However, this same anonymity also removes what could be called the “human element of socialization”: By reducing the person you are speaking with
down to lines of text on a screen, it is easy to disregard the feelings of others without even realizing it (especially since there are also fewer consequences for doing so than in face-to-face interactions). Far more threatening is the possibility that the person with whom you are communicating online is not who they claim to be and may wish to take advantage of you. If you absolutely must make contact in the “real world”
with someone you met online whom you do not already know, be sure to meet in a public place in the daytime, with a friend or other trusted individual accompanying you in case the meeting goes poorly.

Before meeting with someone you know from the Internet, be sure to:

  • Arrange to meet in a public, well-lit area during daytime
  • Have someone you trust accompany you.
  • Inform others where you will be.
  • Have a phone or some other way to contact someone you trust in case of emergency

Additionally, never give away important information when communicating with someone online (via email, a forum, instant messaging, etc.). This includes never providing your real name, address, or Social Security number. There’s no telling where it might end up after you give it away. For example, you could easily become a victim of identity theft if someone uses information you provided to gain access to your
bank account. Even on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, you should try not to post any photographs that might reveal where you live or work. Consider only being “friends” with people you know in real life, and making your page visible only to people on your “friends” list. This can minimize the risk of someone using your page to determine where you live or other important information about you.

Before sharing personal information online, be sure to:

  • Check to see if the site you will be sending information to is legitimate.
  • Ensure that it will not be posted elsewhere without your knowledge.
  • Withhold any data that might be used for identity theft if the site is not secure.

The Internet is also home to numerous scams and frauds. Just like in real life, the best way to steer clear of them is to remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. A particularly dangerous scam to look out for is “phishing,” which takes the form of a seemingly legitimate email (usually from a bank or other financial institution) explaining that for one reason or another, it requires you to confirm important information (such as a password or PIN) and directs you to a link that supposedly comes from the trusted source. Look carefully at the link by placing the mouse cursor over it, and it will reveal that the “official” site is in fact a carefully constructed fake. Any information you enter into it will be used to commit fraud in your name. Delete the email at once and call your financial institution to ensure that there are no issues with your account. On that note, you should also avoid downloading attachments from an email whose sender you do not recognize, as many of them contain viruses that can damage your computer or spyware that can track the Web sites you visit and access information stored on the computer. There are numerous anti-virus products available, and installing one is a good way to keep your computer safe.