A new playground: The digital lives of young people with disability

Young people with disability are active participants in the online world and enjoy playing games, posting content and just hanging out with friends.

The internet is a great equaliser for people with disability, enabling users to take part in activities without the physical barriers they may encounter in the offline world.

By going online, young people with disability can engage with others in an environment where they have more control over how they represent themselves – a place where they are not viewed in terms of their disability, unless they want to be.

However, young people with disability have been found to be more vulnerable to online harms and encounter higher rates of negative online treatment and potentially harmful content.

eSafety's research explores the online experiences of young people with disability and considers the digital parenting practices of their parents or carers.

This report is the third in a series of publications that draw on the Aussie Kids Online dataset – a nationwide survey of over 3,500 young people and their parents or carers, conducted between July and September 2021.

Summary of key findings

Young people with disability in the digital world

Our survey found the internet to be a crucial resource for young people with disability with a range of social benefits and interactive play experiences. Young people with disability are more likely than the national average to have:

  • shared their interests and hobbies with others online
  • played games with others online
  • searched for health information and emotional support online
  • felt they could be more themselves online, than in the offline world.

Navigating online harms

Young people with disability are typically more proactive in response to negative online experiences than the national average, reporting incidents to platforms and turning to friends and parents or carers for support. 

Our survey also found that young people with disability are more likely than the national average to have encountered hurtful and nasty treatment such as hate speech and physical threats, and to have seen potentially harmful content such as graphic violence and ways to self-harm.

We found that almost all parents and carers of young people with disability take a strong interest in their child’s digital life, encouraging them to explore the online world.
eSafety continues to work with young people with disability and their parents and carers to promote ways to stay safe, while getting the best out of the internet.