Cell Phone Use among Homeless Youth: Potential for New Health Interventions and Research
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Cell phone use has become nearly ubiquitous among adolescents in the United States. Despite the potential for cell phones to facilitate intervention, research, and care for homeless youth, no data exists to date on cell phone use among this population. In 2009, a survey of cell phone use was conducted among a non-probability sample of 169 homeless youth in Los Angeles, CA. Levels of ownership and use, instrumental uses (connecting to case workers, employers) and patterns of connecting to various network types were assessed (family, home-based peers, street-based peers). Differences in socio-demographic characteristics and cell phone ownership were assessed via t test and chi-square statistics. Sixty-two percent of homeless youth own a cell phone; 40% have a working phone. Seventeen percent used their phone to call a case manager, 36% to call either a potential or current employer. Fifty-one percent of youth connected with home-based peers on the phone and 41% connected to parents. Cell phones present new opportunities for intervention research, connecting homeless youth to family and home-based peers who can be sources of social support in times of need. Moreover, cell phones provide researchers and providers with new avenues to maintain connections with these highly transient youth.