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Digital Divide Still Separates White and Minority Students


Many more White children use the Internet than do Hispanic and Black students, a reminder that going online is hardly a way of life for everyone.

Two of every three White students — 67 percent — use the Internet, but less than half of Blacks and Hispanics do, according to federal data released Tuesday. For Hispanics, the figure is 44 percent; for Blacks, it’s 47 percent.

“This creates incredible barriers for minorities,” says Mark I. Lloyd, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an expert on how communications influence civil rights.

Not using the Internet “narrows their ability to even think about the kind of work they can be doing,” Lloyd says. “It doesn’t prepare them for a world in which they’re going to be expected to know how to do these things.”

The new data come from the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. It is based on a national representative survey of households in 2003.

Overall, 91 percent of students in nursery school through 12th grade use computers; 59 percent use the Internet.

Yet within those numbers, the digital divide between groups is a national concern.

Studies have shown that access and ability to use the Internet helps improve people’s learning, job prospects and daily living.

Schools have taken big steps to close the gaps.

Virtually all U.S. schools are connected to the Internet. The gaps in Internet usage between Whites and minorities, though sizable, are smaller during the school day.

That’s not the case at home.

A total of 54 percent of White students use the Internet at home, compared with 26 percent of Hispanic and 27 percent of Black youngsters. Limited access can erode a student’s ability to research assignments, explore college scholarships or just get comfortable going online.

Kids use the Internet most often for completing school assignments, the new study says. But they also count on it for e-mail, sending instant messages and playing games.

The racial divide in computer usage is tied to broader problems, including poverty in Black and Latino communities and even a cultural reluctance to use the Internet, Lloyd says.

Among other students, 58 percent of Asian children and 47 percent of American Indian students use the Internet.

The numbers are growing for all groups of students — a bit of good news, Lloyd says.

“We should celebrate that, with caution,” he says. “The sky is not falling. The numbers are improving. But there is still a gap, and we need to find a way to address it.”

— Associated Press


Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 2 reader comment on this story:

“having access”
As a parent I see the benefits of computer knowledge for children of color. I have provided my 15 yr old son with Internet access, but under my direction and guidance. Having access flames his thirst for knowledge, he is not afraid to use it and it is a wonderful tool for HW assistance. Unfortunately, even in today’s times,  many African American families cannot afford the purchase of a computer and that is the main reason we are so far behind whites.  Schools must commit to establishing and providing computer access beginning in the elementary schools. Just as many parents get children started in athletic programs very young, it should also be done in providing children with computer knowledge and skills. Thank you. 
-Betty Franklin-Swammy

“economic resources”
It is my opinion that this “knowledge gap” is directly related to the various group’s economic resources.  Truth be told, there are many Hispanic and African-American Americans who simply cannot afford to have the Internet or a computer in their homes. 

     It is not a matter of these minority groups not having the capability to navigate and utilize the Internet, but a lot of it has to do with them not having the resources to do so.  And, I am not so sure that is necessarily a bad or problematic thing.  Yes, the World Wide Web offers us a broad spectrum for research and business opportunities, but I do not think the majority of people who use the Internet are doing so for these purposes.  It is a lot of junk on the Internet as well that many Americans spend to much time on.  Yet, it is important for there to be a balance of how we use our resources…especially in the “microwave society” we have today.
-Charlene Gilmore
Nashville, TN

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