Internet and Social Media As a Form of Social Capital Among Homeless Youth
Methods: Homeless youth ages 14-27 years (N=380) were recruited from two drop-in centers, one in Santa Monica and one in Hollywood. Participants were asked to complete a computerized self-administered questionnaire. Analyses include descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic- regressions.
Results: Compared to their Santa Monica peers, more Hollywood homeless youth report using the internet daily (35% vs. 20%) and accessing the internet on their cell phones (58% vs. 35%). Furthermore, Hollywood youth are significantly more likely to look for information about HIV/AIDS online (42%). Likewise, youth in Hollywood were significantly more likely to use the internet to find an HIV testing location (28% vs. 18%). In multivariate logistic- regression models, site differences are no longer significant in regards to searching for HIV information online and finding HIV testing locations. However, youth with a lifetime history of HIV testing are 2.5 times more likely to report seeking HIV information online and 2.8 times more likely to report having used the internet to locate HIV testing services. Youth who use email and/or social networking websites to communicate with caseworkers or agency staff are 2.7 times more likely to report seeking HIV information online and 2.5 times more likely to report seeking an HIV testing location online.
Conclusions: These findings illustrate the need for increased internet-access for homeless youth. Agencies serving homeless youth should bookmark credible sexual health information websites. Agency staff may also consider utilizing email and social networking websites to communicate with their clients to facilitate HIV testing and information seeking. Additionally, agencies may consider linking their Facebook pages and websites to online HIV prevention interventions.