BY KIMORA COCHRAN
As explained by the New York Times recently, decades ago the problem was the great “digital divide” between wealthily and poor families. The digital divide was all the rage when explaining the inequalities between classes or communities in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies (i.e computers, internet and broadband access).
Fast forward fifteen years later and the enormous gap in access to these technologies has closed tremendously, but apparently it did not close the gap concerning the knowledge and information one is able to access through these technologies.
According to the recently posted NYT article by Matt Richel:
As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show. This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.
While some may be quick to blame the parents for failing to monitor their child’s use of time and activities online, one must consider the fact that circumstances are poles apart when comparing a well-to-do home to that of a poverty-stricken home.
If a home in an impoverished neighborhood is lucky enough to own a computer, the chances become much bleaker when they want internet access. According to the Federal Communications Commission over 40% of African Americans do not have broadband access at home; 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure quickly dwindles down to 40% in households with less than $20,000 in annual income, according to the commission.
In a majority of the cases, poor homes consist of: children being raised by a single-uneducated mother; living in an urban community with a less than stellar public school system; lack of employment opportunities; a high crime rate; rising gas prices; and limited means for technological education.
It should be natural to understand why hovering over your child’s shoulder while he or she is online does not rank high on the list of priorities in a family that is struggling to simply survive.
The New York Times reports that “children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families.”
A parent cannot teach their children something they themselves do not know.
When young struggling parents are uneducated about the scholastic resources available online like Fun Brain PBS Kids or IXL , it is impossible for them to demand their child to stop wasting time on MediaTakeOut.com and mosey over to a more culturally informative, educational, or positively enriching website.
Newly enacted limitations on temporary cash assistance, cuts on public school spending, various education programs and other government funded programs (that primarily aid low-income homes) are being axed out of state budgets every day. Surely, these cuts in essential resources impact the knowledge online programs and educational tools have to offer.
It’s is easy to point the finger at the reason why poorer children spend more time on less than productive websites – but it would be more beneficial to log on to the argument of why lawmakers fail to fund more educational programs for children, or programs concerning digital literacy training for their parents.