Abstract: Examining Correlates of Mobile Phone and Social Media Use Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness (YEH) in Seven Cities across the United States (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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37P Examining Correlates of Mobile Phone and Social Media Use Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness (YEH) in Seven Cities across the United States

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
In young Park, MSW, Doctoral Student, MSW, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Anamika Barman-Adhikari, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Hsun-Ta Hsu, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO
Robin Petering, PhD, Founder, Senior Researcher, Lens Co, Los Angeles, CA
Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, Associate Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX
Kimberly Bender, Professor, University of Denver, CO
Sarah Narendorf, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Kristin Ferguson, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Jama Shelton, PhD, Assistant Professor, City University of New York, New York, NY
Stephanie Chassman, MSW, Ph.D. Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background: An estimated 3.5 million youth in the United States have experienced homelessness within a 12-month span and experience deleterious outcomes across multiple domains. As young adults experiencing homelessness (YEH) are transient and difficult to engage in place-based services, new forms of information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as smartphones and social networking sites (SNSs), may represent a novel avenue for intervention. Beyond using ICTs for informational and instrumental purposes, ICTs among YEH are related to socialization and communication, and more importantly, inclusion in social worlds outside their street environments. The little work that has investigated ICT use among YEH suggests that despite their lack of resources, ICT use is surprisingly high among this group. However, there are limitations to this work including using a single-city sample and utilizing data collected prior to 2013, indicating a need for more recent data responding to shifts in technology. Thus, this study aims to describe patterns of ICT access and use (i.e., mobile and social media) among a geographically-diverse sample of YEH.

Methods: We used data from a cross-sectional study that used a common survey instrument, the Homeless Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (HYRRS), to examine risk and resilience factors among YEH. Participants (N=1426) were recruited between 2016-2017 from seven U.S. cities through YEH-serving organizations. Youth were in their early twenties (Mage=20.88) and from diverse racial backgrounds (African American=37.2%; White=18.9%; Latino=17.3%; Mixed=16.2%; Other=10.2%).
The dependent variables for this study were ICT access and use that have three items with a dichotomous (yes/no) response format. Items asked participants’ about their access to a smartphone, a mobile phone (but not a smartphone), and social media profile ownership. Covariates included demographic characteristics and systems participants are involved in (e.g., foster care, juvenile justice involvement; JJI). Bivariate relationships between individual characteristics and each ICT item were examined using Chi-square tests and then with a logistic regression model. Data analyses were conducted using SPSS 18.0 and Stata 13.0.

Results: The majority of respondents had access to a smartphone (65.1%) and owned a social media profile (73.5%), whereas only 17.8% used mobile phones. Access to smartphones and mobile phones was significantly associated with SES, race/ethnicity, and the systems they are involved in. Interestingly, JJI was significantly associated with both smartphone and mobile phone use, with individuals involved in JJI having significantly higher odds of using mobile phones (OR=1.42; CI:1.05-1.93) but lower odds of smartphones (OR=.75; CI:.586-.967) compared to their counterparts. YEH who were female (OR=1.74; CI:1.29-2.34), White (OR=1.63; CI:1.01-2.66), living in Denver (OR=1.68; CI:1.05-2.71), and working (OR=1.64; CI:1.23-2.19) had significantly higher odds of reporting having social media profile.

Conclusion: The results indicate that ICT access and usage among YEH varies based on their personal backgrounds and prior system involvement. Importantly, these findings highlight the need for developing individualized services for YEH by incorporating different ICT tools in intervention programs. Examining the associations of barriers and facilitators of ICT access and use and the consequential health behavior of YEH is also necessary for future studies.