NEWS & TRENDS: We’re Closing the Digital Divide, But What About the Participation Gap?

Teacher and kids in classroom with tablet computers

New research reveals differences in how lower income students and higher income students use technology. Low-income parents put their children, from birth to age eight, in front of television or computer screens for 3 and a half hours a day on average—double the screen time for higher income children. More specifically, the participation divide refers to the fact that some students are more plugged into an Internet culture around creating, connecting with others and giving and receiving feedback around their work. This observation around screen time and media usage has profound implications for educators. The solution is to develop or renew a focus on creating digital citizenship. This means not only teaching specific digital citizenship skills across the curriculum, but also communicating with (and teaching) parents as well. While organizations like Common Sense Media are playing an important role in educating families, schools and districts must participate in a systemic manner as well. Most existing digital citizenship efforts are focused at the classroom level. It’s critical to address it from a system-level perspective so that digital citizenship practices can be embedded across the instructional program. If your school or district is ready to respond to ISTE’s #DigCitCommit program, consider developing a policy that positions digital citizenship as a critical life skill for college and career success.