It’s everywhere on the Web. Whether you call it social media, social networking, or Web 2.0, the internet has provided all of us some great tools to use in the method of connecting to one another. Perhaps you’ve used Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn or the latest tool called Twitter? All of these web-based applications allow you to interact with the entire world. Let’s talk about how a parent can put these resources to good use.
MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning and a host of many that emerge onto the scene each day are “social” networks. You begin by entering a profile about yourself that allows others to find out about you and you to learn more about them. If you find commonalities, you can be friends and chat with each other, exchanging emails or live conversation via the keyboard. You can join groups and meet several more people who enjoy the same topics you do. More and more applications now provide a way to share pictures and video, birthdays and more. The chart above shows just how popular these sites are becoming. Many are doubling in size while a few are shifting from one network to the other. At the end of the day, all it takes is a little experimentation and one foot willing to step forward. Best of all - it’s free.
Twitter is the latest “Darling of the Internet.” Twitter allows you to interact in real time with people using 140 character messages. It’s kind of like text messaging for your computer. You can search for people by keywords that can represent a geographical area, work or industry and other interest. A search on terms like autism, cerebral palsy and other special needs on Twitter will show you many others that you can trade stories with, share highs and lows and gather information from.
Blogs, like this one, are another new tool to the internet that are making their way into the mainstream. Blogs allow you to read posts, click on underlined words called hyperlinks that take you to more information on that subject, and they also allow you to comment on what you’ve read. Commenting allows you to become part of the topic for others to see and comment on as well. Blogging facilitates conversation - and what good is life without a little conversation?
The only caution when engaging any social networking site is to use your best judgment. Don’t believe everything you read and with a quick search on Google you can find info to back up most topics you come across to investigate further. Personal information is not normally requested once your profile is put together. If someone wants more information, you can always simply refuse or inquire on its necessity. Also, just because it is on the internet does not make it true. A general rule for credibility lies in the last three digits of an internet address. Dot Org’s (like www.cchs.org) are organizational sites or non-profits. Dot Gov’s (like www.census.gov) are government run sites. These sites can be raised a little higher in the credibility range but that’s not to say there aren’t just as many Dot Com (www.google.com) sites with good reputations as well. Again, use your best judgment.
Ready to Open the Door?
We have covered many topics and sites in this post. You are highly encouraged to try them out for yourself. In minimal time you will find that no matter what special interest you have, whether it’s autism, microcephaly, cerebral palsy, scrapbooking or sports - you have many people waiting to talk with you and share. We have had the fortune of meeting many other facilities like ours using these methods so that we can inquire on services and programs and allow them to do the same with us. We’ve talked to nationally known people that we would not have normally been exposed to. The internet opens a large door. It’s up to you to open it.
We’ve left a few pieces of information out - and on purpose. We hope that those of you with experiences on the sites we’ve discussed can fill in the gaps. Have you used any of these sites before? Were they good experiences? Did you meet others similar to your child’s diagnosis? Would you recommend other sites not listed? Please share any and all experiences in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.