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Framing the Issue of the Digital Divide in Education

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Overuse and poor use of technology: a new aspect of the Digital Divide

As school districts across the country upgrade networks and integrate more technology, the divide in digital devices is decreasing, although is some districts serious inequities still about.  (www.digitaldivide.com)    With that said, educators are beginning to take note of a new trend:  a digital use divide.  Previously, the digital use divide seemed to revolve around access time, with wealthier students having more access at home while students of poverty had less access due to a variety of economic factors.   Now, though, the quality of digital use is coming into question.  Interestingly, recent studies have shown that lower income children often spend more time with technology as it has become a type of "digital baby sitter" for parents who have to be out of the house for extended periods of time.   A recent survey from Common Sense Media discovered that " that low-income parents sat their young children, from birth to age eight, in front of a television or a computer screen for 3 hours and 29 minutes a day, on average. That's almost double the 1 hour and 50 minutes of daily screen time that the typical high-income child has."  U.S. News Article on Digital Divide.  

This observation screen time and media usage has profound implications for educators.  Technology use is not going away in the modern world and students need to be well versed in order to be prepared for life after school.  The solution is not taking away technology.  Rather, educators need to develop and/or renew a focus on digital citizenship.   Often seen as an "add on" consideration in many districts, it really does need to be addressed intentionally.  Most of our students have not had a formal in depth instruction on digital citizenship.   Although many students get some instruction at home, many of our high poverty and immigrant families do not have the background to do this.  In fact, research has shown that it is often students who are teaching their parents about technology.  This landscape necessitates a formal and deliberate approach to teaching digital citizenship.
www.digitalequityforlearning.org This means not only teaching specific digital citizenship skills across the curriculum, but it also means communicating (and teaching) parents as well.  Most report cards and online grading platforms do not communicate any information on digital citizenship skills and the appropriate use (and overuse) of technology.  While organizations like Common Sense Media are playing an important role in educating families, schools and school districts must also participate in a systemic manner as well.


  1. I really appreciate the systemic thinking of this blog's author.

  2. Nice post Matthew. I also appreciate your systemic thinking.

    Even more systemically, let's look at the greater need of low income parents for low-cost child care and some form of "digital baby sitter". Those of us with less resources often really need something to occupy our children's attention while we go about the other tasks that occupy our time and don't have as much access to live baby sitters or after school enrichment activities that cost money and transport.

    In addition to increasing parent access to digital citizenship training, we can also look at how we can provide support for the very real child care needs of our communities.

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