Digital Divide Impairing Childrens Education Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Annrose M. Guarino  |  7/15/2005 2:03:33 AM

2005 Back-to-school News

The "digital divide" has LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Annrose Guarino concerned. Her messages may not be reaching some of her intended audiences: low-income, minority and disabled children.

A recent report by the Children’s Partnership analyzed how those groups seem to have less access to technology. The report introduced the digital opportunity measuring stick (DOMS), showing how the Internet and other information and communications technology (ICT) benefit youth.

A year-long study was the first-ever to see if the technology is helping children. The study examined four key questions: 1) Did ICT improve educational achievement? 2) Did it help kids lead healthier lives? 3) Did it increase economic opportunity? and 4) Did it encourage community participation?

The report revealed that the Internet and other digital tools are raising success levels for America's children in general.

"Unfortunately, disparities were shown and were related to an ‘opportunity gap’ for millions of low-income and ethnic minority children," Guarino says.

In educational achievement, for example, the October 2003 "Internet and Computer Use, Current Population Survey Supplement" indicated that 58 percent of school-age children 7–17 used a home computer to complete school assignments.

"Yet, data revealed that 77 percent of families with $75,000 annual household income had home computers, compared to only 29 percent of families with incomes of less than $15,000," the nutritionist points out.

For the DOMS items on economic opportunity, the low-income gap also is apparent. The report showed overall that 62 percent of U.S. young people ages 7–17 used word processing or desktop publishing programs on a home computer. Taking ethnic groups into consideration, however, it was found that 45 percent of white youth studied used the word processing compared to 23 percent of Latino youths and only 22 percent of black youth.

This digital opportunity difference for low-income families has also been named "the digital divide."

Guarino says additional support and resources for greater access for all youth to Internet and digital solutions can strengthen our educational system and reduce the digital gap.

The Children's Partnership is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research, analysis and advocacy on the needs of America's children and youth, particularly the underserved.

For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com/
On the Internet: Children’s Partnership: http://www.contentbank.org/DOMS/

Source: Annrose Guarino (225) 578-1425, or Aguarino@agcenter.lsu.edu

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