May 12, 2017
Social media platforms are popular and serve as a natural extension of our social lives. However, online platforms are emerging as places where people also engage in risky behaviors and express trauma, grief, and emotional distress. This is particularly striking among youth involved in gun violence, whose social media activity often escalates and amplifies real-world violence and illuminates their experiences with grief and trauma.The high visibility of harmful behavior, trauma, grief, and emotional distress on social media gives service providers the opportunity to know exactly who is at the highest risk for committing or being victimized by violence and in greatest need of service. We need to capitalize on this opportunity by giving anti-violence professionals a new method of responding to risky social media use. As modes of communication have changed to favor online spaces, so too must our interventions.Partnering with NYC Cure Violence and researchers from NYU, the Crime Commission developed a multi-tiered intervention model called E-Responder, which aims to intervene with youth on social media, connect them to additional services, de-escalate conflict, and instill long-term life skills in critical areas.Programs like E-Responder are designed to reach out to youth within these virtual spaces of conflict in order to prevent violence. Additional interventions that seek to promote skills and reduce risks with others should capitalize on the opportunity to use social media in their work. In this way we can all ensure that the best strategies and resources are available to young people in the places where they are actively engaged and expressing themselves.