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Report: Minority Teens Close Digital Divide with Mobile Web

A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report, Teens and Mobile Phones, indicated that black teens were more than twice as likely as whites to go online on with their mobile phones, at 44% versus 21%. Hispanic teens were also relatively active on the mobile Web.

“Teens from low-income households, particularly African-Americans, are much more likely than other teens to go online using a cell phone,” the report said. “This is a pattern that mirrors Pew Internet Project findings about adults and their cell phones.”

Urban Youth Are Wire(less)

For most of the 1990s the conversation around minority youth and technology was centered on the “digital divide.” This conversation was primarily focused on hardware issues and connection to the Internet.

However, as S. Craig Watkins points out, the digital divide is not just about access, it is “also about social and cultural skills in human networks to enable proper participation.”

In his keynote at the 2010 Digital Media Learning 2010, S. Craig Watkins (University of Texas at Austin) presented a number of emergent patterns about African-American and Latino youth usage and participation in the digital media space:

  • Usage Is Mobile: Mobile phones are emerging as the preferred platform among minority youth. 92% of 1500 minority youth surveyed in 6 major urban markets own a mobile phone;
  • Usage Is Peer And Interest Driven: They are "living and learning" with new media, engaging their peers, peer interaction, peer informed spaces that drive their usage and interest driven genres (e.g., hip hop);
  • Digital Media Is The New Town Square: "Back in the day" hip hop youth were always writing stories, carrying pens and papers; documenting their stories about their life in poems and hip hop. Today, the digital landscape is the new town square and they go online to engage with their community, and engage in a "stunning" critique about the world around them;
  • Use Digital Media As A Space Of Opportunity: Messaging & hanging around in digital media is NOT just wasting time, but they are creating gateways for them to create opportunities and engage with what they are love and passionate about (e.g., a young girl who used hip hop to connect with hip hop artists, but also to connect with her friends and record/tweet about her own hip hop).

Whether it's marketing soda, producing digital entertainment or online learning opportunities, it's vital that we have a better understanding how minority and urban youth connect and interact on the web so that we can create more inclusive digital experiences.

Related: The Young and the Digital

Image Source: eMarketer

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