The latest report from the feds reminds us that there’s still a lot of work to be done to close the digital divide. Here are a few highlights from the report:
91% of school-age children use computers. The usage gap between white children and black children is 7%, the gap between white children and Hispanic children is 8%. Small gaps also exist for American Indian children and children with disabilities.
In contrast, only 59% of school-age children use the Internet. The usage gap between white children and black children is 20%, the gap between white children and Hispanic children is 23%. Large gaps also exist for American Indian children, children with disabilities, children whose parents only speak Spanish, and children in poverty.
Children with well-educated parents are more likely to use the Internet. For example, children with parents who have some graduate education are twice as likely to use the Internet than children whose parents did not complete high school. Similar trends exist for family income.
Urban children are less likly to use the Internet. Suburban children (63%) and rural children (59%) use the Internet at similar rates. Only half of central city children use the Internet.
Perhaps most importantly, the federal data remind us that we cannot assume that students have computer and/or Internet access at home.
Certain demographic subgroups are more dependent on schools for computer access. More students use computers at school (83%) than at home (68%). There is only a 7% school-home computer usage gap for White students. In contrast, the school-home computer usage gap for Black students is 36%, for Hispanic students is 32%, for American Indian students is 40%, and for students with disabilities is 21%. Large school-home computer usage gaps also exist based on educational attainment and family income level; in fact, students with well-educated and/or higher-earning parents have equal or better rates of computer usage at home than at school.
Certain demographic subgroups are more dependent on schools for Internet access. Students use the Internet at school (43%) and at home (45%) at roughly equal rates. About 10% of students said they access the Internet from a public library and 9% of students use the Internet at someone else’s house. White and suburban students are more likely to use the Internet at home; Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and rural students are more likely to use the Internet at school. Children with well-educated parents and/or higher family incomes are more likely to use the Internet at home, while children with less-educated parents and/or lower family incomes are more likely to use the Internet at school.
The federal data obviously are a few years behind but I’m guessing that these general patterns persist today. There’s a wealth of information in the federal data tables for anyone who’s interested.