I’m aware that no two teenagers with autism are the same, but there are some familiar themes, just like with anyone else. And since autism is so completely fascinating in itself, I’m always amazed when I learn yet another nuance. One thing we’ve always worked on is reality vs. not reality. For example, my son used to think SpongeBob was real. Obviously, he was young, but we’ve always struggled with reality versus his extremely active and fabulous imagination.
Since I’m obsessed with neuroscience, I’ve read that typical developing people also have a hard time with reality versus what they’ve created as reality in their minds. People convince themselves that they’re right all the time, they make up lists and justifications for their beliefs, and what we tell ourselves enough becomes true. For some people, maniacally true and they’ll die to prove their point. The mind is such a complicated beast. So, I have to stay on top of what is cycling through my young teenagers brain, to make sure his feet stay firmly here with us on earth.
When my son started to talk about YouTube celebrities as if they were his “friends,” I started asking around to see if anyone else was experiencing the same phenomenon. The answer was YES. Other parents spoke to me about their children feeling connections with the YouTubers and other people online. Many of these parent’s shared that their young adults with autism had been preyed upon by online gamers, tricked into meeting them outside the home, and one had given their mother’s credit card. Typical people have this issue as well, just watch CATFISH on MTV to view all the people who have fallen in love with people with fake online accounts. So this is with children across the board and all parents should be aware.
I’m not sure what you can do about the situation if your child feels they’re friends with someone online or a character, but for us, it took a lot of talking and limiting the screen time. We had to redirect to a more real social environment, with social activities, and real people to interact with. It has gotten better over time, but we have to stay on top of it because like I said before, everyone is susceptible. For extra safety measures, I have all my son’s social media accounts on my phone and I see it all. It’s time consuming and not as entertaining as someone might think, but it has been educational regarding the inner minds of jr. high kids. And YES, my son knows I read his accounts and is fine with it (or at least puts up with it in order to have said accounts).
On a different note, did you even know there are YouTube Celebrities? They go on tour. I know this because our family has now gone to TWO of their shows and can’t wait to do more. Since I’m always up on what my teen is viewing (or as much as I possibly can be!), I’ve gotten to know a few of these YouTube Celebrities myself, and some of them are quite talented. Other’s are just annoying or obnoxious.
These YouTube Celebrities are so popular they have their own merchandise, sponsors, albums, and some have book deals! We have the two posters below. And yes, they’re signed.
Tyler Oakley’s “I Can’t Stop Watching Youtubers” poster. Purchased signed copy from districtlines.com
Below I’ll share our latest YouTube Obsessions. And I say obsessions because they are. Total obsessions.
The most popular ones (for us)right now are:
Connor Franta’s poster, “Internet Kids Never Sleep.” We purchased a signed copy from districtlines.com
Does your child watch YouTube obsessively? Or do they think that a cartoon character is their best friend? Do they think they’re playing with the cartoon character?
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