by Janice Robinson-Celeste
African-American teens are online and they are online all the time. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, “34 percent of African-American teens report going online ‘almost constantly’ as do 32 percent of Hispanic teens. Only 19 percent of White teens report being online that often.” The question is why is that the case? Sure being online is fun and it’s one way to stay connected with friends but why the racial disparity?
This report also shows that African-American teens have less access than White teens to desktop computers, and instead have smartphones which they use to get online. “African-American youth have greater access to smartphones than their Hispanic or White counterparts” (Pew Research Center).
The wide availability of smartphones allows teens to be online more than ever but are African-American and Hispanic children online more than Whites because of the lack of structured programs and activities in their neighborhoods, after school and on the weekends? In suburban areas, it’s commonplace to see children keeping busy with gymnastic, music and dance classes, little league and soccer moms carpooling teens to these activities. It’s rare to see this scene in urban neighborhoods. Perhaps being online is one of the only constructive activities for African-American teens to partake?
Perhaps being online is one of the only constructive activities for African-American teens to partake?
A different report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation states, “… racial and ethnic minority, and lower-income, communities do not provide as many built and social environmental supports for physical activity.” This report also mentions that, “Many studies find that people with lower incomes, and racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in areas with high crime rates, perceive their neighborhoods as less safe and report physical and social disorder in their neighborhoods, such as broken windows, litter, graffiti, loitering and public drinking.” Overall, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study found that racial and ethnic minority and lower-income people are less likely to partake in physical outdoor activities because they:
- “are more likely to live in neighborhoods with fewer and lower-quality sidewalks, and fewer aesthetic amenities like scenery that make walking safer, easier and more appealing;
- tend to live in neighborhoods with fewer parks and other recreation resources; and
- experience more danger from crime and traffic than others do, and face more barriers from neighborhood physical and social disorder.”
As per the study, is the likelihood that African-American teens are continuously online because they don’t have a safe place to go in their neighborhoods? If this is the case, we must call on local park and recreation departments to provide activities for teens in urban areas. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report shows that the lack of appealing neighborhoods has a direct correlation with obesity. Our teens need resources, places and spaces to stay busy and safe. Currently, for many inner-city neighborhoods that place, which is not always safe is in cyberspace.