Safer Online Lives: Internet Use and Safety for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

ACT Online Safeguarding Training

Safer Online Lives is an NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) funded study, exploring the online experiences of adults with Intellectual Disabilities. This blog has been written by Jessie Newsome, Research Assistant, Safer Online Lives, Tizard Centre, University of Kent.

You can also access an easy-read version of the Safer Online Lives Project.

Safer Online Lives

Many people with intellectual disabilities (ID) have internet access and use social media. Even though the internet use can be very positive, it also comes with risks, such as cyberbullying and exploitation. There is limited research raising the issue of internet use and online
safety for this vulnerable population. More research is needed on the positive aspects, as well as the barriers, that this population experiences while online, and the way that social care professionals and family carers respond to online safety issues.

We want to make the internet a safer, more inclusive, and more accessible place for adults with ID, and reduce the risks associated with internet use. We want to promote independence, and the use of the internet for the opportunities and benefits that it can offer.

The Research Project

We are doing an exploratory, mixed methods study, using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. We are also working with the School of Computing and Cyber-security at the University of Kent, to develop an interactive, mobile app about online safety. The study has a number of different elements, including:

  • Surveys for adults with Intellectual Disabilities, family/paid carers and practitioners with a safeguarding element to their role.
  • Interviews with adults with Intellectual Disabilities.
  • Focus Groups with carers and practitioners.
  • A ‘Think Aloud’ study with adults with Intellectual Disabilities, to understand their thought processes and navigation of issues, while online.
  • An Observational study with adults with Intellectual Disabilities, observing their interaction with our bespoke mobile app, and the virtual online scenarios presented.

The study will conclude in September 2022. We will then share our findings through presentations, publications, reports, training and dissemination events. Based on the findings of the present research, we hope to be able to do follow-up studies in the future, to create
interventions and resources for online safety.

How Can You Participate in the Research? 

There are two surveys as part of the project. The first is aimed at adults with ID and the second is aimed at carers and professionals. If you would like to take part in the surveys, the links are available below:

Contact the Research Team:

Email: or
Phone: 01227 824784
Connect with us on Twitter! @IDSaferonline

For more information, visit our website. 

To learn more about the research, watch this short video!