New Em@ncipatory Landscapes? Young People With Intellectual Disabilities, Internet Use, and Identification Processes

Keywords: Intellectual disability, Internet use, participation, identification processes, social networking sites (SNS)


Although research on young people’s identification processes on the Internet is a growing field, few studies illustrate conditions for young people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Previous studies have shown that young people with ID are worried about being marginalized, and that many in fact are lonelier than other young people. Internet and social networking sites might be of vital importance as a space for exploring alternative and less stigmatized identities. This article reports findings from individual interviews with 27 young people with ID in Sweden. The transcribed interviews were analyzed using a thematic content analysis. A prominent finding concerned the informants being well aware of both risks and opportunities using Internet and Social Networking Sites. Consequently, the more they interacted with non-disabled peers, the more they experienced negative consequences of Internet use. These circumstances rather lead to downsizing than upsizing Internet use, and less participation on Social Networking Sites. The experiences of the informants are discussed in a conceptual framework of social identity, participation, and emancipation. We recommend that social work practitioners reflect upon the ways that support can be arranged in order to empower young people with ID to participate on the Internet.

Author Biographies

Martin Molin, University West, Sweden
Associate Professor of Social Work
Emma Sorbring, University West
Lotta Löfgren-Mårtenson, Malmö University


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