25 March 2021

Supporting your child with SEND online wellbeing

SEND article Wellbeing

Being online is a great way for kids to play, create, learn and connect. Technology has helped us to have fun and feel connected throughout the last year.

However, some kids have seen worrying news or feel pressure to keep up with friends and followers on social media and games.

Some kids use technology to communicate or to do their home-school work. As we are spending so much more time online, it can be hard to avoid.

If your child is feeling overwhelmed, here are suggestions to support their wellbeing.

Online wellbeing tips

Net Aware has partnered with Ambitious about Autism to bring online wellbeing tips, specifically for parents and carers of children with SEND. Try the suggested tips and see which work for your family.

It’s important to check in regularly with your child about the apps and games they are using. You can ask what they like about them and who they’re talking to.

Your child might have questions about something they’ve seen on social media or on the news.

Fake News can be particularly confusing for young people with SEND. It can be hard to understand what is real and what isn’t, and why people would lie.

Newsround has some great videos you can watch with your child about the news.

Let them know they can always come to you, another trusted adult or a Childline counsellor.

Check our Net Aware reviews to learn more about the apps, games and sites your child is using and how you can help keep them safe online.

Talk to your child about the content they are reading or watching. Some sites online are dedicated to discussing harmful and sometimes extreme content. This could cover topics such as extremism, eating disorders or how to harm yourself. Sometimes your child may have a keen interest in an inappropriate topic.

It is important to talk to your child about this content and why it isn’t suitable. You could start the conversation by asking what they find interesting about this content and explaining why it could worry others or get them into trouble.

Start communication with your child and agree some rules about what’s okay to do online.

They could agree to check with you before they download a new app, or to not accept friend requests from people they don’t know.

Different agreements work for different families so do what works best for yours.

You can also use our Online one page profile if your child is used to this format. It gives them the opportunity to share what they like about the apps, games and sites they use as well as agree to rules.

It can be hard to switch off with smartphones and tablets. It’s important to talk to kids about the pressure of ‘always being online’.

If being online is not making them feel good, turn off some or all notifications for some time out. You can turn off notifications on most apps by exploring the settings on the device.

Some apps, like Instagram, have features that let you silence notifications for a set period. When the time is up, notifications will return to their normal settings.

You can also switch on do not disturb mode on your child’s device to mute messages and notifications at certain times.

This is especially important if your child is struggling with bullying online.

Many apps have resources to support user’s wellbeing. Apps like TikTok, Roblox and Snapchat all have wellbeing guides and settings which are useful for you to explore with your child.

Make sure to look at these regularly with your child to see what’s new and make sure they’re still right for your family.

There are some sites and apps created to support young people’s online safety and wellbeing. BBC Own It, Headspace for Kids and Childline are all created for this purpose.

While connecting with friends over apps and games isn’t a new thing for kids, not being able to see friends every day at school might bring about new worries and stresses. Social pressure will come with fears of not being accepted or understood.

This can be especially difficult for children with SEND.

There might be more pressure to talk and share online, or they might feel more alone without face-to-face contact. Sometimes friends can fall out or they may have misunderstandings. This can be very confusing and isolating.

Talk to your child about healthy friendships online by using our Friendships activity.

Being online can be a lifeline for some children. And for children who have special interests, the online world can open these up for them and bring them great joy.

They can research their special interest online or talk to others who have the same interests.

Your child may also use technology to communicate or relate to the world around them.

If your child is benefitting from using technology or being online, do not feel guilty about screen time or allowing them access to the internet. Different things work for different families.

Use the Family agreement or Online one page profile to make an agreement that works for you and your child. The most important thing is that your child is happy and safe and you’re aware of what they’re doing.


Find out more tips from parents of SEND children

Top Tips from Parents
Information produced in partnership with Ambitious about Autism