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Digital Connections: Understanding Social Media Interactions Among Youth Who Experience Homelessness

The purpose of this project is to observe social media interactions among youth who experience homelessness in order to understand how to use social media to engage this otherwise marginalized population.

Preliminary studies with homeless youth find surprisingly pervasive social media use and suggest youths' online interactions may be associated with their health-risk behaviors. As homeless youth are transient and difficult to engage in place-based services, social media may represent a novel venue for intervention.

A critical first step in intervention development is gaining greater understanding of how homeless youth use social media to discuss health risk behaviors. This study is using an innovative and multi-faceted approach combining observational, social network and individual-level behavioral data to describe how homeless youth use social media to discuss health-risk behaviors (i.e., substance use and sexual risk behaviors), how these messages are socially reinforced by peers, and whether these online interactions are associated with youths' engagement in these high-risk behaviors.