Online Program

Virtual hood: Social networking sites in lives of youth living in disadvantaged neighborhoods

Monday, November 4, 2013

Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden, Camden, NJ
Stacia Gilliard Matthews, PhD, Criminal Justice, Rutgers University-Camden, Camden, NJ
Jamie Dunaev, Childhood Studies Department, Camden NJ, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Gulilat Tadesse, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden, Camden, NJ
Marcus Woods, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden, Camden, NJ
Steven Huntsinger, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden, Camden, NJ
Youth living in disadvantaged neighborhoods often opt to remain indoors to avoid outside dangers (Holt et al., 2009). When youth limit face-to-face interactions due to safety concerns, the virtual world becomes a more important tool connecting youth with those beyond their immediate social worlds. Theoretically based in ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1992) and the integrative model of behavior change (Fishbein & Yzer, 2003), This study examines the role of social networking (SN) sites in the lives of youth, particularly in relation to adolescent risk behaviors of sexual behavior and violence. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 60 African American and Latino adolescents, aged 13-20, living in a high poverty urban area, about their social worlds and neighborhoods, on and offline. Data analyses were guided by Grounded Theory procedures described by Corbin & Strauss (1990) and LaRossa (2005). The findings reveal a dynamic and somewhat concerning interplay between the physical neighborhood and the virtual neighborhood, particularly in regards to sexual behavior and violence. In terms of sexual behavior, youth weighed their sexual decision making against the likelihood of their real or imagined sexual behavior being made public through online “smut shaming” and “exposing” on SN sites. In terms of violence, youth reported that conflict on these sites regularly escalated into physical altercations in the neighborhood. We conclude that some social networking sites reproduce and amplify some of the most challenging parts of the social environment of youth and fail to provide a safe alternative to offline dangers.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics
Diversity and culture

Learning Objectives:
Identify a variety of trends in youth adolescent Social Network Site usage. Compare online and offline risk behaviors of adolescents.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Internet

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator for a variety of projects on adolescent media use.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.