America’s Real Digital Divide

The term “digital divide” is used to describe the complex inequalities between those who have access to the internet, and those who do not. An article for the New York Times by Naomi Schaefer Riley dabbles with the idea that this divide is not purely about internet access, but about use. “America’s Real Digital Divide” questions the current state of internet access and use, and concludes that the divide may not be from lack of internet, but too much. Lower income households deem tech-time as a safer alternative to playing outside, but according to studies all this extra screen time is linked to heightened risk of mental illnesses and obesity. Riley discusses her time as a Big Sister to a girl, describing how “[the girl’s] mother was given strict instructions by teachers to purchase a faster computer as soon as possible to get her daughter’s grades up” (para. 7). Yet, there has been no increase in scores in state standardized tests. This leads into her next point of argument¾ that despite this race to bridge the gap in the digital divide, most children of lower income families have access to computers. In a 2015 Pew report, it found that families with earnings less than $50,000 a year still had 80 percent of families with access to computers. Many families do actually have access to the internet, however this access may be over used. Parents in lower income households displayed less of a concern for screen time than their higher earning counterparts. Riley states that the digital divide is actually “between children whose parents know that they have to restrict screen time and lose whose parents have been sold a bill of goods by schools and politicians that more screens are a key to success” (para. 12). Stresses the importance of recognizing the fact that the digital divide may not be as we have traditionally thought it to be. Our society is ever-growing and shifting, and the divide may be shifting from a have and have not, to a use and use too much. The problem with our current system is that we promote the use of computers for educational purposes so much, that we end up hindering our knowledge. As stated by Riley, “the deleterious effects of too much screen time are abundantly clear” (para. 4), and the dangers of online overuse needs to be brought to light to lower income households.

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