Virtual Environments, Online Racial Discrimination, and Adjustment among a Diverse, School-Based Sample of Adolescents

Virtual Environments, Online Racial Discrimination, and Adjustment among a Diverse, School-Based Sample of Adolescents

Brendesha M. Tynes (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA), Chad A. Rose (University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA), Sophia Hiss (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA), Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor (Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA), Kimberly Mitchell (University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA) and David Williams (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijgcms.2014070101
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Given the recent rise in online hate activity and the increased amount of time adolescents spend with media, more research is needed on their experiences with racial discrimination in virtual environments. This cross-sectional study examines the association between amount of time spent online, traditional and online racial discrimination and adolescent adjustment, including depressive symptoms, anxiety and externalizing behaviors. The study also explores the role that social identities, including race and gender, play in these associations. Online surveys were administered to 627 sixth through twelfth graders in K-8, middle and high schools. Multiple regression results revealed that discrimination online was associated with all three outcome variables. Additionally, a significant interaction between online discrimination by time online was found for externalizing behaviors indicating that increased time online and higher levels of online discrimination are associated with more problem behavior. This study highlights the need for clinicians, educational professionals and researchers to attend to race-related experiences online as well as in traditional environments.
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Racial discrimination is a common stressor and a growing threat to adolescent health and well-being. More specifically, within their lifetime, up to 94% of African American, Latino, and Asian youth have experienced traditional or face-to-face discrimination that was associated with their racial and ethnic background (Benner & Kim, 2009; Dotterer, McHale, & Crouter, 2009; Flanagan, Syvertsen, Gill, Gallay, & Cumsille, 2009; Harris-Britt, Valrie, Kurtz-Costes, & Rowley, 2007; Huynh & Fuligni, 2010; Martin et al., 2011; Medvedeva, 2010; Neblett et al., 2008; Pachter, Szalacha, Bernstein, & Coll, 2010). Much of the research in the area of traditional racial discrimination focuses on the perceived frequency of these experiences within the classroom, including unfair treatment due to race (Chavous, Rivas-Drake, Smalls, Griffin, & Cogburn, 2008), where respondents may be treated with less respect or harassed because of their race or ethnicity (Rivas-Drake, Hughes, & Way, 2009; Shin, D’Antonio, Son, Kim, & Park, 2011). To extend this body of research, some scholars have explored disparities and experiences of tracking, unfair discipline, perceptions of lower levels of intelligence, or receiving less academic praise and reinforcement than their white counterparts (Benner & Kim, 2009; Dotterer et al., 2009; Cogburn, Chavous, & Griffin, 2011).

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