Social networking can be a wonderful and accessible form of interactive communication for all students, including those with cognitive disabilities. In fact, many students with cognitive disabilities report a sense of “social connectedness” when they are able to access social networking opportunities via the internet (Sohlbert and Fickas, 2005). This communication and connectedness with others has become an integral part of many people’s lives.
Since social networking has become such a central part of everyday life it is critical to specifically educate students with cognitive disabilities about potential dangers and provide them with the knowledge necessary to make wise decisions when it comes to Internet safety. One serious concern is that of “stranger danger.” By “stranger danger” we are referring to the possible harm that can befall students when encountering unfamiliar people on the Internet.
Our goal is to make parents and teachers aware of these dangers, as well as to provide useful information and practical applications that will assist them in teaching safety skills to students. We have focused on three different issues pertaining to “stranger danger” in social networking on the internet. The issues include risk behaviors exhibited by students, sexual predators/stalkers, and sexual harassment. We also have included resources for educational opportunities that we see as being valuable to teachers and parents in educating students with cognitive disabilities about these issues.
Though research conducted on these issues are not specific to individuals with cognitive disabilities, the information is significant to all teens including individuals with cognitive disabilities. At this time, “stranger/danger” in online social networking is an area not focused upon in educational research for individuals with disabilities and we, as the creators of this site, feel that it is a disservice to our students and families to not focus on an area that creates such accesibility for our students.
Sohlberg, McKay M. & Ficas, Stephen. (2005). The longitudinal effects of accessible email for individuals with severe cognitive impairments. APHASIOLOGY, 19(7), 651-681.