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Headshot Young Girl

Maria Cunningham


United States

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Imagine your child innocently navigating the vast expanse of the internet when a seemingly harmless question pops up: "How's the weather where you live?" In an ideal scenario, the response should be an unequivocal NO, according to a local police detective. However, curiosity often overrides caution, leading them to disclose more than they should. This seemingly innocuous exchange was all it took for a stranger to begin piecing together information about a local teenager, culminating in an unwelcome appearance at her soccer game. The chilling reality of such incidents, alarmingly prevalent among typical teenagers, keeps me awake at night. Now, let's shift our focus to a different demographic: neurodiverse learners, many grappling with executive function deficits. Absent that internal voice of caution, they engage with online activities without heeding warnings, unwittingly exposing themselves to potential dangers. While programs exist to promote internet safety and digital citizenship, they often fall short in addressing the unique needs of these students. Consider those who struggle to comprehend the content of digital citizenship games due to cognitive challenges or motor impairments. Traditional educational methods may fail to capture the attention of students with ADHD, leaving them disengaged and vulnerable to impulsive decisions. How might we authentically engage students in education system change, ensuring that the curriculum not only educates but also captivates neurodiverse students, making internet safety second nature to them? It's imperative to create resources that accommodate their unique needs, fostering both comprehension and active participation, transcending barriers and resonating with all students, irrespective of their cognitive abilities. Only then can we cultivate a culture of responsible online behavior, thereby safeguarding vulnerable individuals in the digital realm.

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