Assessing the Impact of Online Harassment on Youth Mental Health in Private Networked Spaces


  • Seunghyun Kim Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Afsaneh Razi Drexel University
  • Ashwaq Alsoubai Vanderbilt University
  • Pamela J. Wisniewski Vanderbilt University
  • Munmun De Choudhury Georgia Institute of Technology



Online harassment negatively impacts mental health, with victims expressing increased concerns such as depression, anxiety, and even increased risk of suicide, especially among youth and young adults. Yet, research has mainly focused on building automated systems to detect harassment incidents based on publicly available social media trace data, overlooking the impact of these negative events on the victims, especially in private channels of communication. Looking to close this gap, we examine a large dataset of private message conversations from Instagram shared and annotated by youth aged 13-21. We apply trained classifiers from online mental health to analyze the impact of online harassment on indicators pertinent to mental health expressions. Through a robust causal inference design involving a difference-in-differences analysis, we show that harassment results in greater expression of mental health concerns in victims up to 14 days following the incidents, while controlling for time, seasonality, and topic of conversation. Our study provides new benchmarks to quantify how victims perceive online harassment in the immediate aftermath of when it occurs. We make social justice-centered design recommendations to support harassment victims in private networked spaces. We caution that some of the paper's content could be triggering to readers.




How to Cite

Kim, S., Razi, A., Alsoubai, A., Wisniewski, P. J., & De Choudhury, M. (2024). Assessing the Impact of Online Harassment on Youth Mental Health in Private Networked Spaces. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 18(1), 826-838.