Preliminary studies with homeless youth have found surprisingly pervasive social media use and suggest that youth’s online interactions may be associated with their HIV-related risk and protective 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 1st step in intervention development is gaining greater understanding of how homeless youth use social media, especially as it relates to who they connect to and around what topics. Given the salience of social networking sites in the lives of these otherwise difficult-to-reach adolescents, and their potential to disseminate prevention interventions, this study assessed associations between online social networking technology use and HIV risk behaviors among homeless youth in Los Angeles, California. Homeless youth ages 13 through 24 (N = 1,046) were recruited through 3 drop-in centers and surveyed about their social media use and self-reported HIV-related risk behaviors. Results suggest that social media use is widely prevalent among this population, and the content of these online interactions is associated with whether youth engage in risk or protective behaviors. Implications for interventions and further research are discussed.
Social Networking Technology Use and Engagement in HIV-Related Risk and Protective Behaviors Among Homeless Youth.