Alabama study: 75 percent of homeless youth on Twitter, Facebook

Teens who run away from home may be experiencing a stressful situation you don't know about, says Dr. Shain, who notes that homeless kids have a higher rate of suicide. iStockphoto

A University of Alabama study found that 75 percent of homeless youth use social networks to stay connected with others, CBS Atlanta affiliate WAOK reports.

The study, led by Rosanna Guadagno, surveyed 237 homeless teens who were an average on 19 years old. Most of the youth surveyed said they used social media sites like Twitter and Facebook for over an hour each day. For comparative purposes, 90 percent of college students in general reported using social media for at least an hour a day.

Guadagno writes that the idea of a "digital divide" in Internet access based on economic status should be re-thought.

"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," she said.

The University of Alabama study comes shortly after another similar one backed by the University of Dayton. Sociologist and criminologist Art Jipson foundthat the majority of homeless people he surveyed in the Dayton, Ohio, area used Twitter and Facebook, via cell phones and computers at public libraries, to stay in touch with the homeless community.

Social media, Jipson said, was not only a way for homeless Ohioans to find their next meal or a warm place to sleep, but served as a great equalizer where they can interact without being judged.

"No one on the 'net cares if I didn't get a shower yesterday or smell some," said one of Jipson's subjects, according to his study. "They don't judge me, you know? I feel accepted. I am accepted."

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