The role of digital environments in identity construction processes: exploring the online identity of people with special needs and disabilities

The Italian Safer Internet Centre has recently released a new webinar for teachers, educators and education experts to explore the role of digital environments in the processes of identity construction of young people, and especially young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Date 2023-05-15 Author Italian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic love, relationships, sexuality (online), media literacy/education, online reputation Audience media specialist, parents and carers, teachers, educators and professionals
A teenager girl in bed looking at her phone

There is general consensus among researchers that the internet and digital environments can offer users tremendous opportunities to experience their identities, as well as a body of research on how children and young people use the internet in this regard. Less present in the literary debate is the specific reference to young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who, like their peers, find themselves facing complex dynamics that are typical of online environments (linked to self-representation and experimentation, production, distribution, and use of contents) which can expose them to specific vulnerabilities as well as to specific risks and barriers to their own inclusion.

The webinar aimed to present an articulated analysis of the online environment and its relationship with identity and/or subjectivity and the multiple factors capable of affecting the possibility of opening spaces for processes of self-determination and online negotiation of one's identity, especially for adolescents with SEND.

The webinar explored the following issues:

  • The construction of one's self in digital environments, especially for young people with SEND
  • The conveyance of elements of self-determination through communities and online networks in which younger people with SEND participate.
  • The complexity of the visibility-invisibility issue; voice-silence linked to the theme of agency also through digital environments.
  • Exposure to specific online risks and vulnerabilities for young people with SEND.
  • Tools, practices, and methodologies for the didactic inclusion of students with SEND.

The webinar was a critical training opportunity for more than 700 teachers attending online thanks to the participation of Fabio Bocci, Full Professor of the Department of Education, at Roma Tre University; Martina De Castro - Research Fellow, Department of Education, Roma Tre University; Umberto Zona - Research Fellow, Department of Education, Roma Tre University and Grazia Mazzocchi - Bologna Territorial Support Centre - Regional School Office for Emilia-Romagna.

The theme of online identity of disability was very interesting and will also be explored further in the coming years in Italy.

You can rewatch the webinar on Generazioni Connesse's YouTube channel, and find more information on the BIK resource gallery.


Find more information about the work of the Italian Safer Internet Centre, including their awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for other Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe

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