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Using online platforms for flirting, dating and romancing has become more popular than ever in light of the COVID-19 restrictions. There has also been a shift and increased online dating that has affected the mental health of teens.

A new study released by Yale Medicine, outlines that teens of this day and age not only use but rely on social media for almost everything when it comes to all things dating-related. With the most popular apps for their romancing being Instagram and Snapchat, teens use social media for “finding potential dating partners, determining compatibility, initiating the dating process and ultimately maintaining a relationship with day-to-day communication.”

“Moreover, teens use social media sites to engage in online flirting, which typically consists of comments, private messages, innuendo emojis (i.e., the eggplant to signify a “penis” or the peach to represent “buttocks”), or liking someone’s photos”

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Yale Medicine’s latest research particularly aimed to explore the “cyberintimacy” and online dating habits of Black teenage girls — with the hopes that their findings would help researchers “understand the group’s decision-making processes regarding dating,” learn how the group’s views on what healthy romantic relationships look like are formed during their adolescence, and yield information on how Black teenage girls can be better served regarding getting them educated on sexual health.

A summary of the research shared that the study was done “to support the development of a multiplayer risk-reduction videogame for Black teen girls” in the grand scheme.

Regarding the study’s specifics, Yale Medicine spoke to 27 Black girls from 15 different U.S. states ages of 14 to 18 through “online focus groups.” All of the girls identified themselves as heterosexual.

Ijeoma Opara (PhD, LMSW, MPH), co-author of the study and assistant professor in the department of social and behavioral sciences at Yale School of Public Health, broke down a portion of the findings by explaining that:

“From the study, we learned that Black teen girls navigate social media being aware of gendered racism, which they are victims of, while also being aware that they are seen as less desirable than their White teen counterparts.”

According to her, the “disheartening” research highlights that Black teen girls experience racism in the dating world even at their young age — and that the impacts of those romantic biases “can undoubtedly impact their self-esteem, their views of Black girlhood, and ultimately impact the type of partners they choose to be with who may not honor or respect them.”

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Moreover, associate research scientist in the play4REAL XR Lab at Yale Pediatrics, Veronica Weser (PhD), shared researchers discovered that Black teen girls utilize social media “to figure out different qualities” of the potentials partners they’re interested in dating and scouting online.

“They are also on the lookout for racist, homophobic, and transphobic attitudes, and strategically look through shared memes for this sort of content,” Weser noted. The summary of the research additionally mentioned that Black teen girls use “social media platforms to elicit information about potential partners, including political views (Twitter), family life (Facebook), and friendships (Instagram).”

To learn more about the study’s findings and the multiplayer videogame intervention being developed by Yale Medicine, called InvestiDate, find the summary here.

If you’re interested, the full study itself can be accessed here.

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