The Internet isn’t improving social mobility, writes Robert Putnam in his new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Even low-income teens have smart phones, but easy access to information “has not leveled the playing field at all in terms of the difference between rich kids and poor kids,” he told MarketWatch.
“Compared to their poorer counterparts, young people from upper-class backgrounds (and their parents) are more likely to use the Internet for jobs, education, political and social engagement, health and newsgathering, and less for entertainment and recreation,” Putnam writes.
In other words, the information rich get richer.
Affluent teens also “spend much of their Internet time sending off Snapchats, playing games and watching YouTube videos,” writes Jeremy Olshan. “But since social networks online tend to reflect social networks in real life, the wealthier kids have more people to draw on digitally to help advance their education and careers.”
In fact, the social connections common to the wealthy may be even more important in an age where everyone can freely download all the world’s information, Putnam says. “Just because teens can get access to a technology that can connect them to anyone anywhere does not mean that they have equal access to knowledge and opportunity.”
He fears “the Internet seems more likely to widen the opportunity gap than to close it.”