National Survey Dispels the Myth of the Digital Divide and Finds Today's Hip-hop Generation Embraces Technology and New Media

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National survey finds that the hip-hop generation embraces Internet technology and new media

Despite previous assertions, the overwhelming majority of low-income urban teens are accessing the Internet, buying the latest cell phones and engaging in online social networking. A national survey of more than 1,500 African American and Hispanic teens and young adults, revealed that this group is highly-connected, tech savvy and brand loyal. MEE (Motivational Educational Entertainment) Productions Inc. uncovered these findings during its latest in a series of national surveys focused on the lifestyle trends, behaviors and attitudes of urban youth.

Other notable findings include:
Internet Usage - There is extremely high Internet access (96%) by urban youth, at work, school or home. Many (68%) are accessing the Internet through high-speed connections like cable, DSL or wireless. However, only about half of those with access indicated that it was through a home computer. In a trend analysis, MEE found that home Internet access has continued to rise among urban youth. In MEE's 2002 study of African American youth, 43% of youth had access to the Internet at home, compared to 58% in 2008.

Better than two-in-five (42%) of the current survey participants reported accessing the Internet daily; and of those who do, 68% are spending at least two hours a day online.

Personal communication and entertainment tend to be the most prevalent reasons why urban youth access the Internet. Youth mentioned using the Internet for e-mail (50%), social networking (31%), downloading music (30%) and instant messaging (29%). In the 2002 study, MEE found that social networking was done primarily through chat rooms, and only 10% of youth reported engaging in that activity. Six years ago, the most popular uses of the Internet by Black youth were e-mail (22%), searching the Web (13%), school work (12%) and games (11%). In 2008, however, visiting social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook is the second most common online activity among youth.

The 2008 survey found that males used the Internet to access sports information at a much higher rate than females (18% to 1%), while female participants were more likely to use the Internet for schoolwork (23% to 11%).

Cell Phone Usage - More than 9 out of 10 (92%) urban youth own a cell phone. The survey shows that urban youth take advantage of features like text messaging, taking pictures, making videos, accessing the Internet and downloading games, music and ringtones at a high rate. T-Mobile was the most popular cell phone carrier (36%), while AT&T (22%) and Sprint/Nextel (18%) had smaller shares.

A considerable number of youth (61%) reported that they buy a new cell phone at least once a year. Nearly 60% planned to purchase a "smart phone" within six months of taking the survey.

These findings are based on a survey of 1,512 primarily Black and Hispanic youth ages 15 - 20 from key urban markets: New York City; Los Angeles/Long Beach; Chicago; Philadelphia; Atlanta; and Washington, DC. Surveys were conducted during prearranged times at community-based organizations, high schools, alternative/charter schools, community recreation centers and housing projects. All surveys were conducted and collected on location by authorized MEE staff.

The survey was designed to provide a better understanding of the lifestyles, media consumption habits and behaviors of urban youth in order to be able to reach and influence them with culturally relevant, pro-social messages. It captured information about youth preferences and consumption patterns related to entertainment media, the Internet and other communication technologies, along with demographic and psychographic data. The survey also explores where urban youth spend their time, their eating habits, their fashion preferences and who they think are the "hottest" celebrities.

The study was co-sponsored by Black Entertainment Television (BET) and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

The full survey report, Inner City Truth: An Urban Youth Lifestyle Study II, will be released on February 16, 2009. This information is intended to enable public and private sector service providers to understand how to better communicate with urban youth and to create messages and outreach that reflect the ideals, culture and environmental realities of urban youth.

For more information on the report go to inner-City Truth Survey

About MEE - MEE Productions Inc. is an internationally recognized communications firm that develops socially responsible, research-based communications strategies targeting African American, urban populations and low-income youth. MEE's mission is to reach, understand and positively affect urban populations living in at-risk environments. MEE has offices in Philadelphia, PA and Los Angeles, CA.

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William Juzang II
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