University of Pittsburgh Study Detected an Increase in Online Racism Directed at Black Youth

A new study by scholars at the University of Pittsburgh found half of all Black adolescents were faced with online racism at least once in 2020.

While students performed schoolwork at home due to the pandemic, they spent more time online and in front of screens — where the racial unrest of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd became prominent on direct-messaging platforms and social media.

Researchers collected 18,454 daily assessments of a large group of Black and White adolescents across the country – 58 percent of them African American ­– between March and November 2020. The results showed that Black youth experienced increases in online racial discrimination that predicted worse same- and next-day mental health.

“This study showed us the need for programs to decrease online hate crimes as well as procedures by health providers – pediatricians, psychiatrists, and others – to mitigate negative mental health effects brought on by online racial discrimination,” said Ming-Te Wang, co-author, professor of psychology and education in the School of Education, and senior scientist at Pitt’s Learning Research & Development Center.

“These findings have immediate implications for clinical practice,” said Juan Del Toro, a research associate at the Learning Research & Development Center and lead author of the study. “Adolescents’ chronic exposure to online settings may exacerbate racial disparities in health considering the present study found a negative impact of racial discrimination on Black youths’ but not White youths’ mental health.”

The full study, “Online Racism and Mental Health Among Black American Adolescents in 2020,” was published on the website of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. It may be accessed here.

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