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Facilitators and barriers to internet and social media use by children and young people with complex communication needs: An international study.

Area of this research:

There is an explosive growth in the Internet’s use as a social networking tool and major venue for leisure and recreation among adolescents without disabilities. In 2009 in Australia, 90% of 12-17 year olds and 97% of 16-17 year olds regularly used social networking services. Nearly 92% of Japanese teenagers regularly use the Internet, and their higher level Internet use has positive effects on loneliness, since they receive greater social support from friends13. The rapid growth of these sites has made parents, school staff, and policymakers more aware and concerned about the potential risks to children.

In Germany, the number of Internet users has been risen up to 58 million in 2016 from 46 million in 2010. This means 83,8 % of the German population (14 years and older) uses the internet at least rare. The rate of increase since 2015 is 3,4 % or 1,9 million people. 100% of 14-19 years old use the internet at least seldom, 91,5 % stated 2016, to use it daily (Koch, Frees 2016, 429ff.). The use of social media increased significant in 2016. 70 % of the 14-19 year olds stated to use Facebook daily. Overall the importance of social media increased again

The use of internet and social media of youth with disabilities and complex communication needs has been subject of research. However, an international comparison is lacking.

This research seeks to address an identified need to increase the web based social participation of the most marginalised and isolated groups of young people, including those with complex communication needs, in specific regions in Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. The research’s research questions are:

1) How are young people with complex communication needs using Internet technologies and digital social media?

2) What are the facilitators and barriers to using Internet technologies and digital social media in this group?

 Project team:

Pammi Raghavendra, Flinders University, Adelaide/ Australia

Janice Murray, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom

Martine Smith, University of Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Gregor Renner, Catholic University of Applied Sciences Freiburg, Germany

Ingo Bosse, TU Dortmund University, Germany


Project duration:

April 2017 until March 2018