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USC Rossier professor studies teen race relations online

USC Rossier Professor Studies Teen Race Relations Online
Brendesha Tynes specializes in how new media affects adolescent learning and development.

In the wake of almost constant online interaction among teens, there has been growing awareness of cyberbullying and its devastating consequences.

Brendesha Tynes, newly named associate professor at the USC Rossier School of Education, has focused her research on the impact of an underexplored Internet behavior among adolescents – online racial victimization.

“We know about cyberbullying in general, but we’ve just scratched the surface of understanding how race-related victimization impacts classroom settings,” she said.

Tynes, who joined USC Rossier in January from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, specializes in how new media affects adolescent learning and development.

“I am excited to be among such esteemed colleagues, who are also working on similar issues,” Tynes said. “There is absolutely no place I’d rather be as I move my research agenda forward.”

Her recent research has found that online race-related discrimination can trigger stress, depression and anxiety.

Tynes currently leads a $1.4 million study following students in grades 6 through 10 over three years. Pilot data indicated that young people victimized online and in traditional settings have lower grades in math and science than those victimized in traditional settings alone.

“Now that we’ve seen that racial discrimination is common online, we want to help kids think about race in online settings,” said Tynes, who is designing an intervention to help young victims develop coping strategies and think critically about the messages and materials they encounter online.

She also plans to study how online and hybrid schools are meeting the developmental needs of students in virtual settings, which will help inform the work of USC Hybrid High School. The USC Rossier-affiliated charter school, which will be open up to 12 hours per day, seven days per week and year-round for students who may be at risk of dropping out, is scheduled to open in the fall.

Tynes said she hopes to research how online and hybrid schools are meeting the developmental needs of students in virtual settings and how they can do this better.

“Virtual schools are cropping up all over the country, and many people are very focused on subject matter, not the psychosocial and emotional aspects of learning,” she said. “How do we better meet adolescents’ developmental needs in these online settings?”

Tynes, who was named one of the top emerging scholars of 2010 in Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine, is the 2012 recipient of The Scholars of Color Early Career Contribution Award from the American Educational Research Association.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

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