As digital gap closes, poor kids waste more time

The “digital divide” separating affluent and low-income children is closing, reports the New York Times. But access to technology hasn’t helped poor kids learn more. It’s made it easier for them to waste time.

. . . 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.

According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, children of parents who don’t have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from college-educated families. That’s up from a 16-minute gap in 1999.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering spending $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. Trainers “would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers,” reports the Times.

Let’s say Juan is killing zombies and texting his girlfriend when he could be researching the Industrial Revolution for a history paper. Is that because he doesn’t know that a computer can be used for research? I doubt it.

About Joanne


  1. For decades, social reformers have promised that race and class differences in achievement would disappear when the differences in resources and access were eliminated; innate factors had nothing to do with it.

    Here we find that even with similar resources and access, there are big class (and likely race) differences in how students use it.  The innate factors now constitute a bigger part of the difference in achievement.

    Notably, they have not gone away.  This won’t stop the “right-thinking people” from denying they exist.  I’m morbidly curious whether they’ll invent some new way to blame the high-achievers for it, or subsume it under one of the existing labels.

    • Agreed. The high achievers in K-12 and college are now the Bourgeoisie of the 21st Century, in the minds of the “right thinkers” in education and social work.

      • The high achievers in K-12 and college are now the Bourgeoisie


        • Richard Aubrey says:

          E-P. What I was going to say. The bourgeoisie get “epater”–shocked by avant-garde artiste wannabes. The kulaks get killed. They own two cows. The horror.

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            I’d just like to point out that the Kulaks weren’t killed by the ignorant surfs. They were killed by the thugs who adopted the philosophies of the intelligentsia (Marx to Lenin to Stalin). The intellectuals were responsible for the gulags, not the surfs. Ideas kill. Same goes for Hitler.

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            Because I am a serf myself, I get to spell it “surf”. I possess authenticity, dontcha know.

  2. Sigivald says:

    Contra E-P, I’m gonna say the differences are probably not innate, but agree that they’re not caused by resources or their lack.

    They’re almost certainly more cultural/social than anything else.

  3. Ponderosa says:

    For thirty years now we’ve thrown technology at kids. Has this made them a whit smarter? No. Not only that, it’s often causing more harm than good. No matter: we’ll continue to hear calls that our only salvation lies in throwing more technology at kids (and every other problem).

    When are we going to wake up and realize that what’s good for Silicon Valley is not good for America?

  4. All the money and gadgets in the world will not magically make someone with no mental discipline suddenly start having mental discipline. Or desire to plan for the future, or interest in how the world around them works, or moral compass, or empathy, for that matter.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    But throwing something–money, gadgets, anything–is “doing something” which allows one to ignore the inconvenient.

    • What’s the point in “doing something” if you KNOW it’s going to be a failure? To waste all that money, manpower, resources? Just for the good conscience of saying we tried?

  6. And the remedy? More taxpayer money, of course; what a waste.

    • Ponderosa says:

      I wish we could teach superintendents and school board members to resist the slick sales pitches of Silicon Valley. No one seems capable of thinking critically about new technology. Pick any problem and technology is always the solution –that’s the American way.

      • Since when did principals and superintendents think critically at ALL? But then again, what can we expect when many M.Ed. curriculums literally have macaroni art projects in them? (It’s true – I’ve seen them!)

        • Lightly Seasoned says:

          Many do. I think people on this board misunderstand the myriad pressures on schools. It is easy to toss out random insults and blame without looking at all the factors. By law, schools CANNOT write off certain ineducable students. That’ what NCLB is about. 100% proficiency. By law, schools must throw whatever it takes at children with disabilities. That’s the IDEA. All these facile solutions to the issues are illegal. Try again — or work to change the laws.

          • Those laws are insane, and are leading to a slow destruction of our society. Instead of pouring all our resources into those that *can do* and *want to do*, we’re literally ignoring those students, throwing them by the curbside, and pouing all our resources into the *can’t do*, *doesn’t want to do*, and *never will be able to do* students.

            Then, as the icing on the cake of this insanity, ridiculously unrealistic expectations are put in place – 100% proficiency among all students of all types by ‘X’ date? It’s an expectation set up to fail…

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            Or, support educational choice: vouchers, charters, cyber options.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    I don’t know if it’s a waste. Confronting the inconvenient might be…inconvenient, and doing something about it impossible, due to either incontrovertible facts or social pressures.

    • 50 years of trying says that it’s 95% a waste. A person or group of people will only change for the better when their *culture* changes for the better. Otherwise, you’re just doing something for the sake of doing something. A few decades ago, these things were worth a try – we didn’t know what the results would be. Now that we know that they’re 95% total failures, continuing to try them is a fool’s errand.

      • Ponderosa says:

        We experiment, but we never learn because we don’t take (have?) the time to study what’s already happened. The project-method of education was launched in 1915; it’s failed, and yet it’s constantly being hailed as the next great thing in education (see Lucas’s Edutopia). Desegregation did not cure the achievement gap, yet resegregation is being blamed once again for the achievement gap. Unions and tenure are gone from many schools with no discernible benefit to students, yet busting unions remains a pillar of ed reform. Core Knowledge curricula work wonders for kids, but who’s hopping on the CK bandwagon? Technology may be wrecking the lives of our kids (porn, addictive games, Facebook bullying, etc.) but we turn a blind eye and continue to sing hosannahs to Apple. We fall back on our preconceived ideas; we are not empirical. What good is the tsunami of info on the Web if we’re incapable of digesting it and adjusting our prejudices accordingly?