Homeless, But Not Twitter-less

January 4, 2013
Some of America's youth may be living on the streets -- but they are not without updated social media linkages in the digital space. A study at the University of Alabama found that 75 percent of today's homeless youth do have social media accounts they update regularly, at least one hour each day, to keep in touch with others in the homeless community. The most common access points to the likes of Twitter and Facebook are through cellphones or computers at public libraries, the research said. The results were based on a survey of 237 college students and 65 homeless youth with an average age of 19. According to the study's head, Rosanna Guadagno, the statistic makes us redefine the term "digital divide", which used to refer to Internet access based on economic status. "To the extent that our findings show a ?digital divide? between undergraduates at a four-year university and age-matched participants in a program for homeless young adults, it is mainly in types of Internet use and not access to the Internet, and that divide is relatively minor," Guadagno wrote. To compare, the study showed that 90 percent of college students in general access social media for at least one hour per day -- not too far from the homeless' 75 percent. When asked about the reasons why they turn to social networking, the homeless teens reportedly said it was a convenient way to communicate, get freebies and ask favors without being judged. A similar study by sociologist Art Jipson from the University of Dayton supports Guadagno and her team's findings, calling social a media a "great equalizer" among America's homeless teens. Read more about the "Computers in Human Behavior" study.

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