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Is There a Digital Hood?

A study led by Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor and Director of the Health Equity & Media Lab, shows that there is an alarming connection between the negative social interactions disadvantaged youth experience in both the neighborhoods they live in and on social media.

Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH is focused on providing health equity in African American and Latino communities. Stevens integrates public health and communication science to influence the individual, social and structural determinants that perpetuate health inequities. Her area of expertise examines the relationship between new and traditional media and adolescent risk behavior.

Stevens’ recent article, “The Digital Hood,” shows an alarming connection between the negative social interactions disadvantaged youth experience in both the neighborhoods they live in and on social media.  

The team conducted interviews with 30 females and 30 males, ranging in age from 18-24 years old, about their social worlds and neighborhoods, both online and offline. The study took place in predominately African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods. The participants told interviewers of the drama that takes place on social media, which is a byproduct of living in a disadvantaged neighborhood. The study found that social media can make tensions between people even worse, or at least seem even worse. To reduce their exposure to some of these negative experiences, a number of the participants elected to limit their social media activity. But by cutting oneself off of social media completely, it negates any of the potential positive opportunities social media may allow for.