LOW INCOME CHILDREN AND THE INTERNET 5
LowIncome Children and the Internet
Withthe advent of internet and technology, research has focused on theissue whether the internet can help school-going children to improvetheir academic performance. While most studies have found positiveimpacts of internet use, there have been concerns regarding negativeconsequences that the internet poses to children. The focus of thisstudy, however, was to examine the consequences and antecedents ofinternet use by low-income children.
Thefindings of the study revealed that children from low- incomefamilies who used the internet scored higher scores on standardizedtests and higher GPA after one year more than did children who didnot use the internet. In essence, internet use among low-incomechildren was found to have positive consequences regarding schoolperformance. While the finding of the study is consistent with theprevious studies covered under the literature review, it is not clearwhether these findings can apply across board. In other words, thestudy has not given an indication that internet use has similarpositive consequences on the academic performance of all children.There is the need to conduct more studies to find out whetherinternet use portends similar benefits in terms of school performanceabout children from various backgrounds as well as adults.
Thisresearch focused on children from income families in the suburbs ofBrooklyn, New York. Accordingly, children participating in theresearch were performing below average in schools regarding bothstandardized scores and GPAs (Valkenburg & Soeters, 2001).Possibly, the benefits of internet use with regard to academicperformance were limited to pupils in this specific performancerange. As such, children whose performance range was above averagemay not necessarily show similar benefits since their academicperformance may decrease gradually as a result of spending more timeonline. Essentially, the study reinforces the long-held belief thatthe implications of the lack of internet use among low-incomechildren are dire and may have more serious impacts than wasinitially acknowledged. One possible finding in future studies mayreveal that only low-income kids whose performance is below averageare likely to benefit from internet access. Additional research isrequired to determine whether the use of internet has different,similar or no effect on rich and middle-class children. In addition,future research should include low-income children with above-averageperformance in terms of standardized tests and GPAs.
Thestarting point in this study was the analysis of review of theliterature, which focused on different facets internet use inschools. Notably, the sample size selected for this study wasobtained from low-income areas. Contrary to media hype, popularbeliefs and government records, children from some sections ofBrooklyn made can’t use internet. Some of the widely used internetcommunication tools such as instant messaging, E-mail and chat roomconversation were rarely used by the participants of the study. Thisis perhaps the reason why the number of students participating in the13-month project dropped gradually in the course of the project life.Indeed, only 65 out of 110 participants were using the internetregularly during the duration that the study took place. This begsthe question why low-income children from Brooklyn suburbs made solittle use of the internet. One obvious explanation that could beeasily overlooked is that the kids were poor. Consequently, theirfamilies and their friends were poor. Given the costs of internetaccess, low-income children could not afford access to the internet.Another explanation for low internet use among participants lies incultural influences and beliefs with regard to communicationpreferences. Notably, a majority of children who participated in thisstudy were Africa-Americans. Historically, African-American cultureis an “oral culture” (Valkenburg & Soeters, 2001). This meansthat members of this community prefer face-to-face communication tointernet’s typical communication media. As such, the researchfindings from this study are inconclusive as the sample size was notrepresentative of the general population. While the focus of thestudy was on low-income children, the findings made in the may notreflect that of a similar study involving low-income children from awhite cultural background. In light of these realities, there is aneed to conduct further research that will include children from allbackgrounds, be it social, cultural or economic demographics.
Anotherunanswered question from this study is whether internet use hassimilar consequences for people of all ages. Essentially, this studywas limited to internet use among low-income children. Theparticipants were aged between 10 to 14 years. Evidence shows thatinternet use had significant benefits on the academic performance ofthe participants. The question that emerges from this finding iswhether the same would apply to adolescents and adults. Additionalresearch is required to find out whether internet use amongadolescents and adults has negative or positive consequences.
Systematicresearch is required to examine the impacts of internet use of anindividual’s schools performance. Future studies should examinewhether age, cultural characteristics and income levels influenceinternet use and its implications on school performance. Essentially,we need to understand whether internet use for academic purposes canhave positive impacts for one group while having negative impacts onanother group.
Valkenburg,P. M., & Soeters, K. E. (2011). Children`s positive and negativeexperiences with
theInternet: An exploratory survey. Communication Research, 28, 652–675