By Giovanni Zaburoni
The internet gives you unlimited access to a vast amount of information. However, for low-income families, limited access through mobile devices may be their only way of getting online, which is impacting their ability to learn. According to The Edvocate, nine out of ten low income families have access to the internet, but most can only get online via their smartphones or tablets. A quarter of families earning less than the median income and a third of families living below the poverty line can only access the internet on their mobile devices. A third of those quickly reach their data limits or are unable to keep up the payments on their phones, causing them to lose internet access.
Without the internet, low-income youth can easily be left behind academically. Researchers looked at how the lack of internet access can hinder a child’s success in school by conducting workshops in libraries, as reported by The Edvocate. The workshops involved using an online coding program that could only be accessed on a computer, not a mobile device. The researcher went to a library in a low-income neighborhood. In one workshop, students had to complete their work outside the library.
Students who had access to the internet had very complex projects, whereas children who relied on a mobile device–even though the librarian allowed students to work outside workshop hours–had less time to work on their projects, and on top of that, their projects weren’t as good as those completed by the students with full internet access. Children who had full internet access at home also developed a greater interest in coding after finishing the workshop; researchers believe it’s because they had more exposure to the program.
The internet can be used as a learning tool when you are working on things that interest you. According to a paper published in 2014 that highlighted a girl named Amy, her participation in an online community led to her wanting to get another college degree. Amy was part of a knitting community that also incorporated the Harry Potter Series in their work. As she started working with the group more and getting support from her online peers, she started selling her knitting patterns online.
Since she had uninterrupted internet access, Amy used the opportunity to learn more about knitting and start a business online. If she didn’t have access to the internet, it would have been much more difficult to be involved in that process. A lack of internet access means a lack of exposure to important information that may eventually hurt a child’s learning process.
Source: The Edadvocate