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Black American adolescents experienced increases in online racial discrimination from March to November 2020

Daily online racial discrimination experiences, which increased from March to November 2020, predicted poorer same-day and next-day mental health among a nationally representative sample of Black American adolescents.

Washington, D.C – WEBWIRE

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), published by Elsevier, reports that, online racial discrimination increased from March to November 2020 and culminated to 1 in 2 Black youths facing online racial discrimination at least once in 2020.

In 2020, Black people across the United States felt anger, fear, frustration, a deep, wide array of emotions as race and racism became prominent in the wave of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and more. Among Black youths, there was a distinct, negative mental health impact after being confronted with online racial discrimination.

Juan Del Toro, research associate at LRDC and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and co-author Ming-Te Wang set out to study online racial discrimination in the time of COVID-19. Their two primary research goals included 1) examining the frequency of online racial discrimination before and after the 2020 unrest, and 2) determining if such discrimination predicted mental health concerns among a nationally representative sample of Black youths. The team of University of Pittsburgh scientists conducted a longitudinal study collecting 18,454 daily assessments of 602 Black and White adolescents across the country – 58% of them Black American – across 58 days of racial tension between March and November 2020. During this period, students spent more time online and in front of screens – where the racial unrest of 2020 especially took hold in direct messaging platforms and social media. The researchers found that Black youth experienced increases in online racial discrimination that predicted same-day and next-day mental health. One of 2 Black youths experienced at least one incident of online racism during the study period. The rate was significantly higher than a previous study of reported online racism experienced by roughly 2 in 5 Black adults between March and June 2020.

“The study showed us the need for programs to decrease online hate crimes as well as procedures by health providers – pediatricians, psychiatrists, and others – to mitigate negative mental health effects such as online racial discrimination,” said Ming-Te Wang, Professor of Psychology and Education in the School of Education and senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC).

“The data were rich… as these daily self-reports were gathered across multiple periods throughout 2020, enabling us to look at changes in youth’s daily experiences of racial discrimination across time and examine the immediate and prolonged mental health consequences of racial discrimination,” said Del Toro.

The researchers concluded that changes in policy and medical approach are necessary when such racial traumatic experiences arise. Clinicians should receive training on culturally sensitive assessments and effective communication skills. Racial literacy training and resources to help youth cope with racial events also would benefit from mental health professionals.

“These findings have immediate implications for clinical practice,” Del Toro said. “Adolescents’ chronic exposure to online settings may exacerbate racial disparities in health considering the present study found a negative impact of racial discrimination on Black youth’s but not White youth’s mental health.”



The article is "Online Racism and Mental Health Among Black American Adolescents in 2020” Juan Del Toro, PhD , and Ming-Te Wang, EdD It currently appears on the JAACAP Articles In Press page and will appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 62, issue 1 (January 2023), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact the JAACAP Editorial Office at or +1 202 587 9674. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Juan Del Toro, PhD; e-mail:


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today’s psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The Journal’s purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioural, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

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