Low-incomechildren and the Internet
Low-incomechildren and the Internet
Advancesin the use of Internet technologies have become a vital part of thedifferent aspects of life today. The use of the internet todayapplies to people of all ages, regions, societies, and social class.The feature of the internet being global makes it accessible in allregions and to all individuals who have the necessary gadgetry andfinancial means to access the internet (Fitzgerald, 2013).Furthermore, advents in technological innovations have diversifiedthe types and gadgetry means through which individuals can access theinternet. Gadgets such as computers, mobile phones, and tablets havebeen diversified regarding types and affordability making most ofthem accessible by almost any individual in the society. Due todigital devices and internet use has become so vital in the differentaspects of life, accessibility can exacerbate inequalities within thesociety. Over time since the development of internet technologies, asocial divide developed in the society in lines with income levelsand the abilities to access internet services (Gangl, 2012). This iseven stronger in children belonging to ethnic minority communities.
Oneof the most affected groups in the society is the low-income familieswhose accessibility to devices and internet technology isdisadvantaged and limited. In result of this, most governments andinstitutions embarked on policy changes and investments directed atmaking internet services accessible to all in the society such asmaking connection charges and devices such as mobile phones cheaper.This has had a great impact on making the internet accessible even tolow-income families and children. However, there is still adifference on the nature of accessibility and impacts of the Interneton low-income families and children. The children within suchfamilies face certain types and degrees of limiting factors to theiraccessibility to internet services. This has a large impact on theireducational, social, and psychological development. Therefore, it isvital to establish an understanding of how internet use may impactlow-income children to establish measures through which such effectscan be mitigated against.
Modesand rates of accessibility
Astudy conducted in the United States established that most familiesat all income levels have accessibility to the internet services. 94%of the families at all income levels were found to have some form ofinternet connection within their homesteads through the differentdevices such as computers and mobile phones (Becker, 2011).Particularly, 91% of families living below the poverty line werefound to have some form of internet connection such as through theuse of a smartphone device with a data connection plan. This showsthat internet connection is prominent in all income levels onlydifferentiated as a result of accessibility and connection betweenthe families. Children in high-income families have accessibility tohigh-end gadgets such as tablets and laptops through which they canaccess the internet. On the other hand, the research established that95% of low-income children connected to the internet get a connectionthrough the use of smartphones connected to an internet data plan.There is a large impact on the psychological and cognitivedevelopment between children who have access to high-end gadgets suchas laptops and those with low-income connectivity devices as thesmart phones (Jackson, 2013). Psychologically, children with high-endgadgets and the freedom to access the internet at any time and forany purpose tend to be more confident and discover new things ofinterest to their development. On the other hand, low-income childrentend to shy away from public internet services due to their view ofbeing lower than the other children. This limits their interactionwith the internet world hence cannot discover things of interest totheir personal development. The internet has a high impact on thecognitive ability of children in a class and general aspects. Theinternet contains a lot of information and graphics vital for thedevelopment and intelligence of children. This is especially vitaltaking that most modern systems within the job market have beencomputerized and utilizes a great level of knowledge on informationtechnology and information systems.
Intrying to establish the social and psychological correlation betweenthe use of the internet on children and its differences between highincome and low-income children, only two studies can be found. Astudy by Valkenburg and Soeters (2011) studied the psychologicaleffect of internet use and accessibility to different childrenlooking into differences such as the level of income of theirfamilies. The study was able to establish that the social charactersof loneliness and depression in children disappear or become lessprominent in children with continued access to internet use. As such,the more children can access internet services the healthier theirpsychological state becomes. This is related to the fact that accessto the internet gives them exposure to different forms of informationand social aspects. It also makes them knowledgeable and able torespond to different situations through what they learn from theinternet. In relation, the fact that children from low-incomefamilies are unable to effectively access constant internetconnectivity makes them less confident and able to respond todifferent situations requiring general knowledge and information theywould have otherwise researched and learned from the internet. Theresult is that due to the low and inconsistent access to internetconnection children from low-income families are more prominent tonegative psychological conditions such as depression and loneliness.
Anotherstudy by Scherlis (2012) studied the impacts of internet use onchildren’s feeling of general worthiness. The more time childrencan spend on the internet the less likely they are to feelings ofunworthiness. It established that the more stable and accessibleinternet connectivity is to a child the more they develop feelings ofself-worthiness and confidence in their general life. Children fromlow-income societies were found to be more susceptible to the feelingof unworthiness and lack of confidence due to the frequency ofinterruptions and instability of access. Furthermore, children fromlow-income families have a stronger susceptibility to lack ofself-worthiness due to their individual comparison to their richercounterparts. Children have the sociological condition of comparingthemselves to each other with a competitive spirit of ownership. Thismeans they compare all the gadgets and privileges they have such astypes of smartphones, computers, and internet connections with theircounterparts. Due to this, children from low-income families willhave general feelings of unworthiness and lack of confidence due tothe low status of their gadgets such as computers, smartphones, andinternet connections in comparison to their richer counterparts.
Academically,internet use had been associated with improved academic performancesof children. This relates to children who have effectiveaccessibility to an internet connection in relation to time,stability, and accessibility. Internet connection has been associatedwith the development of visual spatial skills and comprehension ofmodern development and technology. Children from high-income familiescan access modern gaming facilities and applications over theinternet than those from low-income families. Gaming facilities andapplications are vital for the development of visual spatial skills.A study conducted by Donnermeyer and Hollifield (2013) establishedthat there is a significant improvement in GPA scores and readingskills in children who have better accessibility to internetconnections. However, there was no change in math test scores aboutaccessibility to internet connections. Children from low-incomefamilies have unstable access to internet connections due to thechallenges related to payment f or internet services and procurementof modern gadgetry. As such, they are disadvantaged when it comes tothe advantages of acquiring visual spatial skills, reading skills,and education-related skills. This means that on average childrenfrom low-income families have a low probability to get high GPAscores than those from high-income families. According to Rocheleau(2015), the application of a latent linear growth curve supports thatthe use of internet facilities improves academic performances.
Generalknowledge and development
Accordingto Kim (2011), there is a large difference between the nature of useof the internet between children who can access laptops and computersto access the internet and those who can only afford a smartphone toaccess the internet. The study reported that all children withinternet connection would use it to research on completing theirhomework and other school related assignments. However, there was alarge difference like the use of the internet to conduct independentresearch on topics and issues that interest them. 52% of children inhigh-income families with computers and laptops reported using theinternet to conduct independent research and readings on topics ofinterest to the. On the other hand, only 35% of children inlow-income families reported doing the same. As such, this has a highimpact on the intelligence and knowledge level development in thechildren. On low-income children, there is a lesser impact on theinternet enabling them develop general knowledge skills and discovertheir interests and skills as is on high-income children. Most of thelow-income children reported the use of smartphones to access theinternet as tasking and not enjoyable. According to a psychologicalstudy done by Gross (2011), children at a lower age are moreresponsive and interested in graphical presentations of web pageswhich are not accessible through the use of a smartphone. As aresult, children tend to get bored faster and find it more tasking touse the internet as opposed to the use of computer devices. Theimpact of this is that low-income children tend to become lessinterested in technological developments and the internet. This has ahigh impact on their intelligence and knowledge ability levels.
Theaccessibility to internet use for low-income children is alsoaffected by the strength and consistency of connection. Among thefamilies belonging to low-income levels, 52% complained to beconnected to a very slow internet connection that hangs frequently.This affects their comfort and usability of internet services fordifferent services. As such, children in these groups are less likelyto develop an interest in the use of the internet due to the frequentdisconnections, interruptions, and slow speed. Children in low-incomefamilies would much rather prefer to use books to complete theirschool related assignments as opposed to the internet due to suchdelays and inconveniences. This has been related to an improvedreading culture in children who prefer to use books as opposed to theinternet to complete their school-related assignments. However, thisis still hampered by technology as their accessibility to smartphonesstill, enables them to participate in different gaming applications.26% of low-income families complained of accessibility in terms oftime use per individual due to the use of one device by too manyusers at the same time. In a low-income family that is only connectedto smartphone internet connection or one computer, children are lesslikely to have ample time to use the internet. This would see a childin a low-income family being denied the right to access the availableinternet device or only being accorded little time to research onschool related matters. In result of this, most children fromlow-income families are less interested in technological developmentsand emerging trends in the world. This makes them less knowledgeable,less social, and has a great impact on their cognitive ability andchances for future development in the economic and social sectors.Furthermore, 20% of low-income families reported having theirinternet being cut off by the middle of the year and another 24% havehad their smartphone data connection cut off due to lack of payment.These cases cause a discord in the normalcy and consistency ofusability of internet services by children in the low-incomefamilies.
Researchconducted by Zhao (2014), established that even with smartphonedevices most low-income families and children are still not able toaccess the internet effectively due to their inability to payinternet connectivity of subscribing to consistent data plans. As aresult of this, children may have accessibility to the device whichare substantially cheaper to acquire and involve only a onetimecapital investment, but still not have internet connection due to theinability to pay for a stable internet connection that involves highcosts that are recurrent. This has forced children and families withsuch devices to device alternatives to gaining internet connectionfrom different external and free point. Public institutions such asschools, libraries, and others offer free communal access points forinternet connection. These have become vital access points for bothfamilies and children to access internet services on either theircomputers or smartphones. Children from low-income families have beenforced to take advantage of these access points to do their homeworkand other school related assignments. However, the rate of usabilityand access to these access points has been established to be lowamongst these low-income children. This is related to theinconveniences of having to move from their homes to those accesspoints to gain the free internet access. The greater percentage oflow-income families and children are more prone to access freeinternet at public places that offer free wireless internetconnection. Nowadays, most public places such as coffee shops,restaurants, and even commuter buses offer free wireless internet fortheir consumers. The research found these places to be more preferredby low-income families and children than public utility accesspoints. Public access points such as libraries and schools have manylimitations and conditions that have a large impact on their lack offavorability to users. On the other hand, free wireless income can beaccessed as one runs other errands during the day. However, it toohas the disadvantage of having to procure a good or service from thepublic establishment that offers the free internet to be given theaccess passwords. This still disadvantages the low-income familiesand children from accessing internet connection services.
Thereis an identified gap between internet use by the parents and theirchildren in low-income families. Today, most educational institutionsoffer computer education and literacy classes to children making mostof them able to use technological devices and the internet (Crawford,2012). On the other hand, their parents are at a time when suchliteracy education on computers and the internet was a luxuryreserved for the high-income families. As such, most children inlow-income families are taking the role of teachers to their parentson showing them how to use technological devices on accessing theinternet. However, the parents are the ones who are still involved inassisting children on how to interpret and internalize what they findon the internet. This is partly related to the fact that children inlow-income levels attend poor school and have a lower cognition levelthus cannot understand a lot when it comes to analyzing andinterpreting information thus relying mostly on their parents.According to Livingstone (2013), despite the fact that children servea vital role in their parents’ interaction with the internet it isvital to identify the process as a dynamic one between the childrenand their parents. It limits the ability of the children toindependently use and explore the internet which is a vital aspect inensuring development in interests and skills. Innovation is an aspectthat comes from the ability of an individual to independentlydiscover their own passions and interest through the applications ofresources and factors available to them. In this case, children fromthe low-income families are unable to discover their innovation dueto the lack of independent and ample time on the internet to researchand discover things relating to their passions and skills. As aresult of this, children from low income families becomedisadvantaged in the development of promising careers and theirfuture development. In most cases, it is difficult for children fromlow income development families to rise above their childhood familyeconomic state.
Internetuse amongst low-income children is characterized by low accessibilityand availability concerning their families’ abilities to cater forthe related costs. This disadvantages the related advantages ofinternet use on children such as educational development, visualspatial skills, reading skills, and general knowledge skills onlow-income level children. It is vital to understand internet useamongst low-income level children to enable the enactment of policiesand strategies to mitigate against such disadvantages. With thedevelopment of a technological and internet based applications on alllevels of the social and economic world, there is need to establishstrong internet background on all children despite the income levelof their families.
Becker,H. (2011). Who`s wired and who`s not? Children`s access to and use ofcomputer technology. Childrenand Computer Technology, the Future of Children, 10(2).
Crawford,A. (2012). Internet paradox revisited. Journalof Social Issues, 58,49-74.
Donnermeyer,J. and Hollifield, C. (2013). Digital Divide Evidence in Four RuralTowns. ITand Society, 1(4),p. 107-117.
Fitzgerald,H. et.al. (2013). Implications for the digital divide of Internet usein low-income families. ITand Society, 1(5),219-244.
Gangl,A. et.al. (2012). Civic Culture Meets the Digital Divide: The Role ofCommunity Electronic Networks. Journalof Social Issues, 58(1),125-141.
Gross,E. (2011). The impact of computer uses on children`s and adolescents`development. AppliedDevelopmental Psychology, 22,7-30.
Jackson,L. et.al. (2013). Personality, cognitive style, demographiccharacteristics and Internet use – Findings from the HomeNetTooproject. SwissJournal of Psychology, 62(2).
Kim,Y. (2011). Internet connectedness and inequality: Beyond the“divide.” CommunicationResearch, 28(4),507–535.
Livingstone,S. (2013). Childrenand the Internet.London: Polity Press.
Rocheleau,B. (2015). Computer use by school-age children: Trends, patterns andpredictors. Journalof Educational Computing Research, 1, 1–17.
Scherlis,W. (2012). Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces socialinvolvement and psychological well-being? AmericanPsychologist, 53,1017-1031.
Valkenburg,P. and Soeters, K. (2011). Children’s positive and negativeexperiences with the Internet: An exploratory survey. CommunicationResearch, 28,652–675.
Zhao,Y. (2014). The social impact of Internet use on the other side of thedigital divide. Communicationsof the Association for Computing Machinery, 47(7),43–47.