Presentation Title: Discrimination in the Online Worlds of Diverse Adolescents: Associations With Mental Health

Abstract: A recent Associated Press Racial Attitudes Survey (2012) found an increase in anti-Black and Latino prejudice over the past four years with Barack Obama as president of the US. For example, 51% of Americans show explicit anti-Black prejudice in 2012 compared to 48% in 2008. Though respondents convey their attitudes toward Blacks in general studies show that discrimination is common for children and adolescents specifically. In late childhood and early adolescence, studies report anywhere from 10-89% of African American, Latino and Asian American participants experience some type of perceived racial discrimination. In addition, older adolescents, late middle and high school students, appear to perceive more discrimination than their younger counterparts. The numbers increase to 57-94% having experienced some discrimination in their lifetime due to their racial background. Much of this research focuses on educational contexts, assessing adolescents’ perceived frequency of these experiences within the classroom, including unfair treatment due to race, whether respondents are treated with less respect or teased due to their race as well as experiences of tracking, unfair discipline, being thought of as less smart, or receiving less praise. We know very little, however, about adolescents’ experiences with racial discrimination in online contexts. This is despite the fact that online hate activity has also increased. This study utilizes cross-sectional online survey data from a longitudinal study of risk and protective factors associated with online victimization. More specifically, the study examines the nature of online racial discrimination and associations with depressive symptoms and anxiety for diverse groups of adolescents. The current sample included 846 adolescents (46.2% male), with ages ranging from 10 – 18 (M = 14.48, SD = 1.89). The racial makeup of the sample included 41.5% African American (n = 351), 31.7% European American (n = 268), and 26.8% Latino (n = 227). Odds ratios revealed African American and Latinos were 1.45 and 1.69 times more likely than European Americans to have mean or rude things said to them regarding their race. African Americans were 1.43 times more likely to witness people saying things that were mean or untrue about their race, and European Americans were 1.58 times more likely to have been shown a racist image. Multiple regression results revealed higher levels of individual racial discrimination or direct experiences (ß=.20, p < .01) and vicarious racial discrimination (ß=.15, p < .05) predicted higher levels of depression for the African American sample; higher levels of individual racial discrimination predicted higher levels of depression for the Latino sample (ß=.38, p < .01). However, individual racial discrimination or vicarious racial discrimination did not serve as significant predictors for depression, while accounting for gender and grade for the European American sample. Similar results obtained for anxiety, only increased levels of vicarious discrimination (witnessing peers’ experiences) were associated with higher anxiety for European Americans (ß=.18, p < .05). This study is the first to show differing mental health outcomes by racial group associated with online racial discrimination.


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