Online safety experiences of autistic young people: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many autistic young people use online devices for social connection and to share interests. However, there is limited research regarding autistic online safety behaviours. Compared with non-autistic children, parental surveys have indicated that autistic young people are less likely to block people and/or online sites. To date, no research has explored autistic young people's perceptions of their online safety experiences. This qualitative research explored autistic young people's experiences of communicating with others online, as well as their online safety experiences. Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 autistic young people aged 11–17 years (M = 14.0, SD = 2.2), including 8 males (M = 13.9, SD = 2.1) and 6 females (M = 14.5, SD = 2.5). These were conducted face to face (n = 1), phone call (n = 2), or via Skype (n = 8) or live web chat (n = 3). Questions explored factors relating to autistic young people's online safety experiences. Results: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse the data. In line with previous studies, autistic young people reported being victims of cyberbullying. Young autistic females reported being subject to online sexual harassment. While participants’ online experiences varied, there were commonalities, including a desire for more support to block online comments and/or individuals. Conclusions: Our results support previous findings that autistic young people are subject to online harassment and are not confident blocking unwanted contact from others online. Future interventions will be more readily accepted and ecologically valid if they address the unique needs of autistic young people.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101995
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Early online date8 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Autism
  • IPA
  • Online safety
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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