Many see the spreading of movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName as a reason to applaud social networks like Facebook and Twitter. These grassroots campaigns raise awareness for important issues, which can translate to real social and political change.
Yet, new research suggests such campaigns can harm vulnerable populations in ways not yet fully understood.
Specifically, researchers at University of Southern California found viewing viral videos of police shootings and detained immigrants are associated with depressive and PTSD symptoms in adolescents of color.
Such videos may have “deleterious effects” on the mental health of young members of the same racial communities as the victims in police shootings. That finding is from a new study just published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“Increased exposure to traumatic events online, 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,” according to Brendesha Tynes, lead author of the report and associate professor of education and psychology at the USC Rossier School of Education.
Previous research has linked exposure to violent media with trauma, while other research has connected actual police killings in a given region to poor mental health in same-race communities, Tynes noted.
This was the first study to explore the relationship between repeated youth exposure to traumatic events online with mental health, according to Tynes.
For the research, data were collected from a nationally representative sample of 302 black and Hispanic adolescents ages 11 to 19.
African American 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.
Although not establishing causality, the researchers’ findings showed Hispanic participants reported significantly more depressive symptoms than African American participants.
Female participants reported significantly more depressive and PTSD symptoms than male participants. This was true for teens that viewed violence involving both African Americans and Hispanic individuals, per the researchers.“The study shows the increase in depressive and PTSD symptoms crosses racial and ethnic lines,” according to Tynes. “The mental health of both African American and Latinx teens may be linked to viewing any racial violence, not just that which depicts their own racial or ethnic group.”