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Autism Grandparents and Social Media

Are you like me in proudly posting images and information about your autistic grandchild on social media? Do you agree with me that social media is a great way to keep folks updated about your grandchild and her amazing doings?

And are you like me in never (until now) having developed a social media policy or set of guidelines regarding your grandchild?

And finally, are you like me in never (until now) having done much research regarding the dangers of social media?

I’ve now investigated five categories of bad stuff – most of which JC and I had never really thought about until now. After all, we raised our own children before there was social media.

  1. BAD PEOPLE - There are dangerous folks out there. Photos of children are continually “borrowed” from Facebook and other social media outlets and then used for awful purposes such as on child porn sites and accompanied by awful captions and information. Other dangerous folks have involvements in custody battles and abuse situations, and they can determine where to find children by looking at location tags and landmarks in photos.

  2. DIGITAL KIDNAPPING – I wasn’t aware of this until today. There are folks out there who “kidnap” photos and videos of children and give them a whole new identity for their own social media purposes. Research has found that some of these folks are childless persons who use social media to give the impression that they do have children.

  3. POLITICS - I may think that posting a photo of my granddaughter holding a sign in favor of my favorite political candidate is important, but I haven’t (until now) considered that when she gets older she may resent it or may have incorrect assumptions made about by others because of the photo. I now realize that it’s not a good idea for me to post anything about Angelina that relates to politics.

  4. BULLYING – Angelina is 4 years old now, but what if, when she is 24, one of her friends discovers that “cute” video that I posted of her trying to crack eggs for breakfast? And what if her friend shares it with her own friends and they share it with theirs and on and on? And what if Angelina is embarrassed by it? And what if everyone starts calling her a “cute” nickname that they came up with because of the eggs? You see where this is going . . . And much, much worse: the photo of her playing in the bubble bath, the video of her screaming, the story about her and the squirrel . . . What if a future potential employer discovers the old posts as he is evaluating her for possible employment. Whew!

  5. OWNERSHIP – Who “owns” the rights to Angelina’s image and information? Up until now, I’ve operated as if I own those rights whenever I’m taking care of her. I now believe that I am wrong. I believe that she owns those rights and that when I’m caring for her I need to be her “advocate” and act only in her best interest. As soon as any child is able to have even an introductory understanding of this specific concept of ownership (research shows that this happens as early as age 5), our social media posts may cause the child to feel that they don’t have their deserved level of control over what gets posted about them on social media.

In spite of these bad things, I’m sure JC and I will continue to post photos and videos and information regarding Angelina, mainly because it’s a way to keep our friends and family updated and also to let them know how proud we are of Angelina and to be her grandparents.

But beginning now, JC and I will do the following things.

First, we will discuss with our daughter (Angelina’s mother) all of this information regarding social media and will adhere to whatever “rules” she offers.

Second, we will begin involving Angelina in the process of posting stuff about her on social media.

And third, we’ll develop a written set of guidelines for our social media postings about Angelina.

Angelina is a total joy and JC and I hope our use of social media enhances that joy for all of us – including Angelina – now and in the future.



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