SOCIAL MEDIA USE IS LINKED TO A FEAR OF CRIME

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It has long been established that people who watch a lot of television tend to be more afraid of crime. Hours of watching police procedurals, courtroom dramas, and violence-heavy local news can lead one to conclude we live in a very scary world.

A recently published, first-of-its-kind study updates this equation for the digital age. It reports that, for many people, time spent on social media appears to similarly heighten fears of being a crime victim.

“Our results suggest that overall social media consumption plays an important role in increasing fear among young adults,” writes a research team led by Jonathan Intravia of Ball State University. Their study is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

The researchers tapped 918 undergraduates at three universities—one in the Midwest, another in the Northeast, and a third in the South—to participate in the study. Using a scale of zero to 10, each indicated how fearful they were of six specific crimes: someone breaking into your home; being robbed or mugged on the street; being sexually assaulted or raped; having your car or bicycle stolen; being assaulted by strangers; and being murdered.

They were also asked how much time they spend during a typical week on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit—and specifically how often they read, watch, post, or share “news involving crime and violence.”