Tracking Adolescents With Global Positioning System-Enabled Cell Phones to Study Contextual Exposures and Alcohol and Marijuana Use: A Pilot Study



      Measuring activity spaces, places adolescents spend time, provides information about relations between contextual exposures and risk behaviors. We studied whether contextual exposures in adolescents' activity spaces differ from contextual risks present in residential contexts and examined relationships between contextual exposures in activity spaces and alcohol/marijuana use.


      Adolescents (N = 18) aged 16–17 years carried global positioning system (GPS)-enabled smartphones for 1 week, with locations tracked. Activity spaces were created by connecting global positioning system points sequentially and adding buffers. Contextual exposure data (e.g., alcohol outlets) were connected to routes. Adolescents completed texts regarding behaviors.


      Adolescent activity spaces intersected 24.3 census tracts and contained nine times more alcohol outlets than that of residential census tracts. Outlet exposure in activity spaces was related to drinking. Low-socioeconomic status exposure was related to marijuana use.


      Findings suggest substantial differences between activity spaces and residential contexts and suggest that activity spaces are relevant for adolescent risk behaviors.


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