‘They think I’m really cool and nice’: The impact of Internet support on the social networks and loneliness of young people with disabilities.
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Today, young people use the Internet for social networking, learning and recreation. Young people with disabilities have fewer friends and reduced social networks. The aim was to investigate the effectiveness of one-on-one training to increase the use of the Internet by young people with disabilities to enhance their social networks and reduce loneliness. Eighteen young people aged 10-18 years with cerebral palsy, physical disability or acquired brain injury completed a social networks inventory and level of loneliness measure. Participants received assistive technology and training at their home to learn to use the Internet for building social networks. Post intervention testing revealed that the number of online communication partners increased significantly; however, there was no difference in measured levels of loneliness. Future research with larger number of participants with disabilities needs to be followed up longitudinally including investigating the meaning and role of online social connections for this group
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