For the last few decades, politicians and high-tech companies have been talking about the digital divide. They wanted to make sure that poor and underprivileged students had access to the same digital devices as wealthier ones.
I have always felt there was a bigger issue that fewer people were talking about. Fortunately, Naomi Schaefer Riley addresses this in her New York Times op-ed on “America’s Real Digital Divide.” She warns that, “If you think middle-class children are being harmed by too much screen time, just consider how much greater the damage is to minority and disadvantaged kids, who spend much more time in front of screens.”
One study, for example, found that minority children watch 50 percent more TV than their white peers. They use computers for up to one and a half hours longer each day. And the amount of time black and Hispanic children spend in front of any screen is substantially longer each day than for white children.
Another study found that every additional hour of TV increased a child’s odds of attention problems by about 10 percent. “Kids who watched three hours a day were 30 percent more likely to have attention trouble than those who watched none.”
The push from politicians and educators has been to bridge the digital divide and get computers and other technology into the classrooms. Apparently, minority students already have access to technology. One Pew Research report documented that African-American teenagers are more likely to own a smartphone than any other group of teenagers in America.
Put simply, the problem today is not a lack of technology in the schools, in the homes, and in the hands of young people. The problem is too much technology. They are spending a significant number of hours every day in front of a TV screen, a video game screen, a computer screen, and a smartphone screen.