Are you reading this blog post because you clicked a link on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook?
How did you start your journey to double tapping through your social media connections?
If you’re similar to me, you would have downloaded the app, made an account and had no idea what you were doing! But, your parents, siblings, teachers & peers educated you on safe communication and internet use. Through independent exploration, setting safe boundaries, responding appropriately to natural consequences of social media – I now use social media in my daily life.
Through learning any new activity, we promote a sense of exploration to develop independence. We explore new experiences, and the likes of technology and social media should be as inclusive as engaging in exercise or art class. We learn from boundaries set by our mentors and natural consequences of any inappropriate actions. So why do we limit people with disabilities from double tapping, scrolling their news feed or tweeting their opinions?
When it comes to those with disabilities, particularly with cognitive limitations, we tend to avoid the concept of enabling exploration, and independence of social media. Why do we restrict those with a cognitive limitation from exploring social media? Restricting this activity, like when you restrict most activities, causes anyone to want the activity more. For example, if you decide you are never eating chocolate again to ‘be healthy’ on Monday, all you can think about is the chocolate and you’ll likely end your ‘’healthy’ week with binging on chocolate on Saturday! So, if we continue to restrict the activity, or not enable safe use – we will likely just promote poor use, causing vulnerable users to be taken advantage of. This reaction then impedes on future opportunities to teach persons with disabilities independent, safe social media use.
It is against the law to cause primarily restraint to persons with disabilities in rooms with locks & in beds with rails – so why are we allowed to restrict their access to social media? Why is this activity often overlooked by health professionals, families and carers?
We worry about those with cognitive limitations, however developing a safe, supportive and controlled environment on social media will actually enable those with cognitive limitation to reach people, follow topics, interests, seek groups and peer support – as we all do. If appropriate boundaries are set and independence in taught, safe use of social media can be achieved. If mistakes happen, natural consequences occur and that’s how we all learn, from touching something hot as a toddler or saying insensitive comments to a friend.
I firmly believe that social media is a key occupation in many people’s lives as our society becomes more technology driven. To enable independence in the tech-driven world promoting safe and secure social media use is essential for people of all abilities. Promote engagement in this occupation, promote exploration, develop safe boundaries and let natural consequences occur.
All people deserve the opportunity to engage in social media – enable the double tap!