A recent study found that 75% of homeless young people use social networks to stay connected to others – a number comparable to that of university and college students.
The study, led by the University of Alabama’s Rosanna Guadagno, surveyed 237 college and 65 homeless young people that were an average of 19 years old. A vast majority of both groups reported using social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook for at least one hour each day.
Over 90 percent of college students reported using social media programs for at least one hour every day.
“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. 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.”
Another recent study from the University of Dayton found that homeless youth are closely linked to social media in their daily lives. They don’t only use such networks for social contact and equality, but as a means to solve practical daily issues.
Art Jipson, the head of the Dayton study, found that the homeless use social media as a place where all people are treated “equally,” and through a series of interviews, discovered that it can also be a medium to find social services, somewhere to sleep and their next hot meal.
I’d be interested to know if any similar research has occurred in the UK with the ever increasing group of sofa surfer teenagers.