Online Racial Victimization Causing Depression in Teens
Cyber-bulling has a well known if unwelcome presence in the lives of many young people. Bullying now occurs via text messages, online gaming sites, social networking sites, instant messaging and discussion forums. In a recent study by educational psychologist professor Brendesha Tynes, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the effect of online racial discrimination is said to be making teens anxious and depressed.
According to the published figures, online racial discrimination, regardless of racial background, is significantly related to increased depression. More females than males are affected. According to Tynes, "people don't know much about online racial discrimination and its effects on adolescent emotional well-being."
During the study, the professor found a variety of online hate groups that, she says, lure kids into sites disguised as being set up for kids. These seemingly safe sites are produced by hate groups and are no more than phony information clearing houses that encourage their readers to include their literature in school reports. Inaccurate and damaging information ranging from the Holocaust to significant leaders like Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, are just a few examples.
The term "troll" refers to someone who deliberately posts irrelevant, inflammatory, taunting, or intimidating messages on forums or in chat rooms. Professor Tynes says she saw many examples of trolls using sites devoted to specific ethnic groups, "and posting a negative message filled with racial epithets soley to provoke and inflame members of that community."
Professor Tynes believes that more attention should be given to race-related online victimization as a matter of public health and internet safety. Of course the idea of policing all such sites is impossible and Tynes does not support strict parental monitoring. Instead, she argues, "we need more discussion, so that when teens experience race-related victimization online, it can serve as a buffer to help them to feel a sense of racial pride and a positive racial identity."