Survey: 75% of Homeless Youth Use at Least One Social Network

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Even without a roof over their heads, young adults find ways to access the Internet.

homelessSNS.jpg

Reuters

In a small but intriguing study, social scientists found that 75 percent of the homeless youth they surveyed use social networks and that their usage patterns were remarkably similar to college students. 

Led by the University of Alabama's Rosanna Guadagno, they surveyed 237 college kids and 65 homeless youth, both with an average age of a little over 19 years old. While a greater percentage of the students were on social networks (over 90 percent), both groups of users reported spending more than an hour per day using Facebook, Twitter, and the like. 

Guadagno argues that the results should lead us to rethink the concept of the digital divide of Internet haves and have nots. "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," we read. "Since it is clear that the proportions of undergraduates and homeless young adults accessing social networking sites are similar, we assert that the term digital divide is not descriptive of the young adult population."

The work appeared online this week in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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