Better World

The Digital Divide Is Still Not Closed for Kids

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Even though limiting screen time is a common pain point for parents, many kids can’t easily access the internet at all. This has a huge impact on their lives—beyond not being able to watch YouTube or share Snapchats with friends, they’re unable to fully participate in their own education.

A nationwide survey of teachers conducted by Common Sense Media found that 40 percent of teachers report that many of their students lack basic access to a computer or the internet. A full 12 percent of them taught in classrooms where 60 percent or more of their students did not have internet access at home.

This issue impacts students and teachers alike.

The problem with students not having home internet access is that it not only affects their school work, but it also affects what work their teachers can assign. Knowing your students won’t have the tools to complete an assignment causes teachers to assign work that is not inline with today’s learning goals. In today’s environment of ever-changing information, all students need to be able to access the internet in order to learn.

According to the Common Sense Media study, 41 percent of teachers in Title 1 schools — schools that receive federal funds in districts with a high concentration of low-income students — didn’t assign homework requiring internet access. 38 percent did not assign this type of homework in other schools. This so-called “homework gap” inhibits the learning opportunities teachers can offer their students without access to digital tools like internet access. Having to think about the resources your students have at home and how they’ll meet their learning goals with a lack of necessary tools is one more difficulty today’s teachers face.

The issue disproportionately impacts students of color.

When students who do not have home internet access are assigned homework that requires internet, they often need to be driven somewhere to complete it or have to pay for access. Homes without broadband internet access are disproportionately found in African American, Latinx, and Native American families. These challenges create even more inequalities in our educational system.

“As long as the homework gap persists, teachers cannot prepare the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow,” asserts James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “We cannot afford to shortchange lower-income students and students of color, simply because of a lack of broadband and computer access at home. State and federal policymakers must push for critical changes so all kids can succeed.”

It seems that the difficulties in offering an equal education to all students is growing as quickly as technology advances. The only way to lessen the learning gaps is to make the internet as universally accessible as an education.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -