Study examines black male youth reactions to social media videos of community violence

PhD; Research; Social Work

New research from the Race and Opportunity Lab in the Brown School’s Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis sheds light on youths’ reactions to social media videos showing violence in their communities.


Published in the journal Social Work Research, the study presents findings from a survey of black male youths incarcerated in the St. Louis city jail. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded the work, which is part of a larger study assessing the effects of the Fathers Make a Difference Project.

“Measuring exposure to videos of community-based violence, particularly police violence, could improve understanding of how violence affects the well-being of these youth,” said Robert Motley, the study’s lead author. Motley is the manager of the Race and Opportunity Lab and a doctoral candidate in the Brown School.

The researchers found that, in the six months before responding to the survey, participants frequently used social media and witnessed violence in their communities, including violence in social media videos. They also found that the identity of the perpetrator shaped reactions to such videos.

Seeing a video involving police violence was significantly associated with negative emotional outcomes. Seeing a video of civilian violence was not.

“Exposure to police violence may be more impactful for individuals who perceive police as a threat to their personal safety,” Motley said.

All study participants were fathers between the ages of 18 and 25 and all were scheduled for release within 60 days.

For more on the study, visit