Internet Use By People with Intellectual Disability: Exploring Digital Inequality—A Systematic Review

Glencross, Sarah; Mason, Jonathan; Katsikitis, Mary; Greenwood, Kenneth Mark
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

Many people with intellectual disability experience digital inequality due to a lack of Internet access; this is known as the digital divide. Digital inequality is also apparent when people with intellectual disability have Internet access, but only use it for a small number of applications (e.g., watching videos and playing games). Recently, it has been suggested that digital inequality also occurs in situations where some Internet users are less likely than others to translate their online activities to offline resources, including educational outcomes and social capital. The extent to which people with intellectual disability are translating their online activities to offline resources has not been examined. We conducted a systematic and critical review using PRISMA guidelines. The search strategy terms "intellectual disability" and "Internet use" were used to search the databases: Scopus; Wiley Online Library; Psychiatry Online; Web of Science; CINAHL; and PubMed. Twenty-four studies were found, which described 53 types of Internet use, 48 risks of Internet use, and 28 benefits of Internet use. The data were identified thematically and categorized to facilitate comparisons. The most frequently reported types of Internet use were in the category of social media/social networking (23%), the most common Internet risks were in the category of emotional distress (24%), and the most often reported benefits were in the category of friendships and social connection (33%). The findings indicate that the benefits of Internet use for people with intellectual disability have received much less attention than the risks.