Exposure to racial violence in online videos may have harmful effects on the mental health of young members of the same communities as the victims in such posts, according to a USC study published Monday.
Previous research has linked exposure to violent media with trauma, and other research has connected actual police killings in a given region to poor mental health in same-race communities. But the USC study — published in the current issue of Journal of Adolescent Health — is apparently the first to explore the relationship between mental health and repeated youth exposure to traumatic events online.
“Increased exposure to such posts, whether they involve members of one’s own racial-ethnic group or those of other racial-ethnic groups, are related to poor mental health outcomes,” said lead author Brendesha Tynes, an associate professor of education and psychology at the USC Rossier School of Education.
Data was collected from a nationally representative sample of 302 black and Hispanic adolescents ages 11-19. Black and Hispanic participants were asked about police shootings, immigrants being detained by federal agents, and beatings.
Study participants reported the frequency of their exposure to traumatic events online, depressive symptoms, PTSD symptoms and other demographic information, according to USC.
Though not establishing causality, the researchers’ findings showed that Hispanic participants reported significantly more depressive symptoms than black participants. Female participants reported significantly more depressive and PTSD symptoms than male participants. This was true for teens that viewed violence involving both black and Hispanic people.
“The videos of these injustices should be public and people should continue to record and post them,” Tynes said. “The findings show that mental health problems are exacerbated with exposure, so viewers should be mindful of their viewing practices, auto-play settings and how they think about the event after they’ve seen it. They should exhaust all technological, personal and community resources to protect themselves and thrive in the face of these seemingly ubiquitous events.”
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