Caregivers’ views of the risks and benefits of Internet use by people with intellectual disability

Ms Sarah Glencross1, Ms Melanie Anderson1, Dr Jonathan Mason1, Professor Mary Katsikitis1

1University Of The Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia

Background:
Recent research shows people with intellectual disability experience more barriers to Internet use than people without intellectual disability. This ‘digital divide’ can lead to issues such as lack of access to online resources and fewer opportunities for social interaction. Prior studies indicate caregivers, such as family members or support workers, play an important role in facilitating Internet use by people with intellectual disability.

Method:
The research uses a mixed-methods approach to examine caregivers’ attitudes towards Internet use by people with intellectual disability and the strategies they use to facilitate safe Internet use. Data are collected through an online survey and semi-structured interviews with caregivers of people with intellectual disability in Australia.

Results:
To date, 14 online surveys have been completed by caregivers of people with intellectual disability. Preliminary inspection of the data indicates caregivers perceive the person they care for is most likely to be at risk of being told unpleasant things or being insulted online. In terms of carrying out risky behaviour, caregivers report the person they care for is most likely to spend too much time online, insult someone or block someone from a group or activity.

Implications:
Based on these preliminary results, it is anticipated the findings will identify which factors most strongly predict Internet use by people with intellectual disability and which strategies caregivers use to prevent online risks. This information can be used to address barriers to Internet use, for example by informing website design or training to improve Internet accessibility.


Biography:

Sarah Glencross has a Bachelor of Primary Teaching with Geography (Honours) and a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours). She is registered as a teacher with the Department for Education in the UK and the Queensland College of Teachers in Australia. She spent 15 years teaching at primary schools and also spent several years working as a school principal and a child protection officer. Sarah currently works at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) as an equity practitioner in the university’s Access and Diversity Unit.  Sarah is also a PhD Candidate at USC and is researching Internet use by people with intellectual disabilities. Her PhD is being supervised by Dr Jonathan Mason and Professor Mary Kasikitis.