Earlier this fall, University of Connecticut School of Social Work professor Dr. Caitlin Elsaesser became one of the first federally funded researchers to study gun violence prevention in over two decades, according to UConn Today.
According to Quartz Magazine, United States lawmakers passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996, which prohibited the use of federal funds to research gun violence prevention in the U.S. However, legislators reversed that decision in 2019, and this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $8 million to 16 recipients across the country to study gun violence and firearm injury prevention.
Elsaesser received a two-year, $250,000 K01 award from the CDC, which is a mentored grant designed to educate future generations of research leaders.
“I am honored to be a part of this groundbreaking group of CDC grantees that recognizes the public health crisis of firearm violence in the U.S.,” Elsaesser told UConn Today.
Elsaesser started her research earlier this semester into the social phenomena of cyberbullying and “cyberbanging” — a phenomenon that occurs when social media serves as a virtual platform for youth conflicts to escalate into real, in-person violence.
In collaboration with a youth agency for low income communities in Hartford called COMPASS, that offers crisis intervention counseling services to at-risk youth, Elsaesser hopes to learn how social media can actually be used as a tool to reach out to youth and address potential conflict, soliciting community participation in the study’s focus groups.
Researchers have studied cyberbullying on social media, and some research has even been done into how social media can be used as a tool to address youth mental health in general, but never before has anyone like Elsaesser looked at social media as a possible solution to the specific issues of cyberbanging and gun violence.