Online racism is linked to PTSD symptoms in Black youth, study finds


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Claretta Bellamy, NBC

Cyberbullying in the form of online racial discrimination is “a really big issue” for Black youth, the study author said.

Black children and teens are exposed to extremely high amounts of racism online (Shawn Foss/CBC).

Mounting evidence shows the devastating toll online racism takes on Black youth. 

According to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, Black children and teens who experience racial discrimination online may develop symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Those PTSD symptoms, the researchers found, were also potentially linked to suicidal thoughts. 

The suicide rates of Black youth have risen over the past two decades, said study co-author Ashley Denise Maxie-Moreman, a pediatric clinical psychologist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. 

2023 report from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that from 2007 to 2020, the suicide rate in Black children and teens ages 10 to 17 increased by 144% — the fastest increase compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

The researchers suspected that online racism might play a role in suicide risk.

“We know that cyberbullying is an issue for all kiddos,” Maxie-Moreman said. “But in particular, for our Black youth, cyberbullying in the form of online racial discrimination is a really big issue.”

The new study included data from 525 Black children and teens, ages 11 to 19, collected in late 2020. The researchers looked at online racial discrimination directed specifically to an individual, such as a racist meme or messaging. (A separate study, in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, found that Black teens reported experiencing an average of five instances of racial discrimination per day.)

Read more about the impacts of racism on Black teens in the original article.

Explore this virtual exhibit to see just how brutal racist comments online can be.

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