Principal Investigator: Brendesha Tynes

Co-Investigators: David Williams, Adriana Umana-Taylor, Kimberly Mitchell, Chad Rose

Collaborators and Research Associates: Fantasy Lozada, Ann Kim, Courtney Cogburn, Eleanor Seaton, Meeta Banerjee, Nicholas Cage, Juan Del Toro, Devin English, Allana Zuckerman, Mia Smith-Bynum, Sophia Hiss

Although perceived online racial discrimination is one of the most common forms of online victimization, few researchers have examined this growing public health concern. One of the first to explore this phenomenon, the PI and colleagues developed the Online Victimization Scale (Tynes, Giang, & Williams, 2009) to assess general, sexual and race-related online victimization. Focusing on race-related subscales of the measure, with a sample of 264 diverse 14-18-year-old adolescents, Tynes and colleagues (2008) found perceived online racial discrimination was associated with depression and anxiety symptoms over and above measures of offline racial discrimination and perceived stress. Evidence that offline racial discrimination during early adolescence places youth at increased risk for problem behavior and individuals’ likelihood to be victimized in chat rooms and other online contexts at greater frequencies underscores the need to examine perceived online racial discrimination during both early and mid-adolescence. Recent qualitative and mixed methods studies of the nature of race on the Internet and online racial discrimination have often focused on website and online community discourse rather than individuals. These methods do not permit examination of individual and contextual factors that may heighten risk and buffer against online victimization-associated negative psychological outcomes. Rapid psychological and social changes and frequent shifts in youth Internet activities also suggest a need for a longitudinal, mixed methods design. Survey and qualitative interview data will enhance understanding of the nature of online racial discrimination, its antecedents, psychological correlates and adolescent coping strategies used to deal with these experiences.

The study has four core aims, to: (1) Examine the nature and frequency of perceived online racial discrimination, how it differs from discrimination in offline contexts and across racial/ethnic groups, age and time; (2) Determine the risk of first exposure to online racial discrimination; (3) Test and refine an integrative model of the effects of online racial discrimination; and (4) Qualitatively assess online racial discrimination to better characterize the antecedents, nature and perceived consequences of online versus offline experiences.

Online survey data was collected at three time points over three years from a sample of 1028 African American, Latino and White 11-16 year-old adolescents from the Midwest. One hundred participants were also randomly selected to be interviewed via Instant Messenger. This project advances theoretical models of the Internet’s role in the lives of the second generation raised with and sometimes by interactive media, and has translational value to inform Internet policies for schools and families as well as intervention and prevention programs.