This past year has been transformative in terms not only of a global pandemic, but also of a sustained focus on racism and systemic injustice. There has been widespread dissemination of images and videos in the news and online. Like adults, teens are exposed to these images with important consequences for their emotional health and coping. However, few studies have attempted to understand the influence of racism experienced online.
According to one qualitative study published a JAMA network open adolescents expressed feelings of helplessness when exposed to second-hand racism on line. Specifically, adolescents described the helplessness resulting from the penetration of racism into our society. This was illustrated with quotes, such as “[racist events are] another day in life, ”referring to racism as a constant, unshakable force saying,“ I can’t do anything. ”However, many teens emphasized activism as a way to deal with the vicarious racism they experience. One teenager stated, “Yes, and sometimes my answer is that I can do something, like right now …” Participation in activism can help mitigate negative feelings.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, MD, is a pediatrician and medical researcher at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Hospital for Children in Chicago and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. . The study team conducted 4 focus groups of 18 adolescents in the Chicagoland area between November 2018 and April 2019. Dr. Heard-Garris noted that adolescents considered adults to underestimate the amount of discrimination that surrounds them. One teenager he said, “It’s funny because a lot of people think teenagers aren’t socially aware, but I think the friends I have around me, once we start talking about something, go on and on …”
It is important to note that this study took place before the wave of racialized violence by black Americans published in the summer of 2020; however, it emphasizes the need to study how adolescents respond to witnessing these events. Dr. Nia Heard-Garris states, “Researching adolescents’ exposure and response to racism online is critical because of negative changes in emotional state and potentially adverse physical and mental health throughout life.” The researchers in this study also point out that “this study is in line with previous studies that show social cohesion or the connection can cushion the negative influence that racism has on overall health, and the benefits of activism may be because teens can connect to a larger social network to gain support and participate in collective action. ” .
Nia Heard-Garris et al, Adolescent Experiences, Emotions, and Adaptation Strategies Associated with Media-Based Vicarious Racism Exposure, JAMA network open (2021). DOI: 10.1001 / jamanetworkopen.2021.13522
Citation: Teenagers experienced impotence when exposed to second-hand racism (2021, June 15), recovered on June 15, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-teens-experienced-helplessness- exposed-secondhand.html
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