Social technologies such as social media have impacts, both positive and negative, on racial-ethnic (RE) minority adolescents. However, the role of RE identity in social media use and wellbeing has been understudied.
This study addresses the social media experiences and mental health (i.e., depressive and online anxiety symptoms) of a diverse group of 668 adolescents aged 10-17, 45.7% of whom are non-white. The researchers investigated the roles of self-identified RE groups, identity importance, exposure to hate messaging, and gender.
The researchers found significant moderating effects of RE importance, gender, and online hate messaging. Additionally, the moderating role of race-ethnicity reveals a stronger association between greater social media frequency and heightened depressive symptoms among Asian adolescents. Black adolescents showed a significant association between greater social media frequency and decreased online social anxiety. Significant effects of online hate messaging exposure also reveal associations between online behaviors and depression and online social anxiety across adolescents.
This study suggests that association with RE groups and identity importance may have a significant role in social media experiences and mental health outcomes for diverse groups of adolescents. Additionally, the findings highlight both opportunities and hindrances that social media spaces afford racially and ethnically diverse groups during a critical period in psychosocial and identity development.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under award number R15HD094281. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.