Nothing about us without us
Who: Triantafyllopoulou and colleagues
Journal: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Title: Social Media and Cyber‑Bullying in Autistic Adults
This paper looked at the online experiences of autistic adults.
Social media use is now wide spread, and it allows people to communicate, interact, and connect with others.
In 2019, 93% of UK adults had a social media profile.
Social media provides young adults with social engagement, and helps them to maintain and strengthen relationship, resulting in closer, higher quality friendships.
Some autistic people find social media especially useful in establishing social relationships and reducing loneliness without the pressure of meeting people face to face.
Social media also has risks, which might be increased for those who are socially vulnerable. Social media can lead to victimisation.
Cyberbullying is defined as a form of intentional aggressive behaviour which is repeated over a period of time.
Research shows that people with disabilities are at a higher risk of cyber bullying.
Bullying is linked to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, especially in those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
This study wanted to look at:
1) the social media use of autistic adults
2) the occurrence of cyber-bullying victimisation & cyber-aggression
Data collection occurred in 2017 and 2018, prior to the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
There were 78 autistic adults. 43 were female, 29 were male, and 6 did not state their gender. They were aged 18-59 years, and the majority were white European.
All participants had internet access & used social media. Daily, 13 spent 30-59 minutes on social media, 21 spent 1-2h, and 13 spent 2-3h.
22 participants had over 200 friends, and 12 had fewer than 10 friends on social media.
67 said social media was a part of their daily activity, and 61 said it was part of their daily routine.
23 autistic adults had experienced cyber-bullying victimisation within the last 3 months.
2 had engaged in cyber-aggressive behaviours themselves, and 6 had experienced both victimisation and had acted as cyber-aggressors.
46 had no experience of cyber-bullying or aggression.
19 had been excluded or ignored by others online. 18 had experienced someone saying nasty things about them to others online. 17 had experienced someone saying nasty things to them online directly.
The participants were much more likely to be a victim of cyber-bullying than they were to engage in such behaviours themselves.
They were more likely to be a victim of cyber-bullying than neurotypical people are.
Those who felt like they belonged to an online community had higher levels of self-esteem and feelings of pride and usefulness, and those who felt ignored had lower levels of self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness and negativity.
Higher levels of social media use was correlated with an increased risk of cyber-bullying victimisation.
These results have implications for public awareness, policy making, and for those who work with autistic adults. There is a clear need for awareness & intervention with regards to the risks & occurrences of cyber-bullying victimisation of autistic adults.