The Digital Divide Still Exists Among Students

Students from different socioeconomic groups have varying access to computers and the Internet, keeping the digital divide open. A report published by the National Center for Education Statistics details computer and Internet usage habits of K-12 students.

Computer and Internet use among K-12 students is affected by such socioeconomic factors as parent education attainment; poverty status, and family income. Additional factors of race and ethnicity; household composition; and metropolitan status wedge a deeper stake in use factors.

U.S. Census Bureau data gathered in October 2003 shows differences in computer and Internet use rates within age, sex, racial, and socioeconomic groups. White students have the highest rates of computer (93 percent) and online use (67 percent). Of the Hispanic cohort, 85 percent uses computers and 44 percent uses the Internet. Within the population of black students, 86 percent use computers and 47 percent use the Internet. Asian students have higher usage rates than other ethnic groups, with 91 percent using computers and 58 percent using the Internet. Of American Indian school-aged children, 86 percent use computers and 65 percent use the Internet.

The disparities sharpen with where students use the Internet. Minority students are more likely to use computers only at school. Sixty-four percent of white students use computers solely within the home, compared to 43 percent Hispanic; 35 percent black; 63 percent Asian; and 27 percent American Indian. Only 33 percent of white students use computers just in school. But the rate increases with some minority groups: 50 percent of Hispanic students; 59 percent of black students; 33 percent Asian students; and 71 percent American Indian students use computers on school grounds.

Where computers are available in the home, students use the systems for a range of activities. Fifty-six percent of students play games on their home computers; 47 percent do homework; and 45 percent connect to the Internet.

The report used data from the “Current Population Survey, October 2003 School Enrollment and Computer Use Supplement” conducted by the Census Bureau. It examines the use of computers and the Internet by American children enrolled in nursery school, kindergarten, and grades 1-12, aged three and older.

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