The App Gap
Our friends over at Common Sense Media (which is led by one of our co-founders, Jim Steyer) recently put out an interesting study that for the first time documents the “app gap” taking place in America. What’s the app gap? It’s the digital divide that exists between low-income and affluent children in terms of their access to and use of newer mobile devices.
What Common Sense Media found is quite startling:
“…when it comes to the newest tablet devices such as iPads, access is…more limited, with just 2% of lower-income children having one in their home, compared to 17% of those in the higher-income group. This disparity is echoed in parents’ knowledge of and use of apps for their children. More than a third (38%) of lower-income parents don’t have any idea what an “app” is, compared to just 3% of higher-income parents. And just 14% of lower-income parents have ever downloaded any apps for their children to use, compared to 47% among the higher-income families.”
What this means is the next generation of low-income young Americans will be at a significant disadvantage in the years ahead. As new technologies like the iPad become more ubiquitous in our society and take root in classrooms as teaching aids, there will be a significant portion of the population that is still unfamiliar with the devices, putting low-income kids behind their more affluent counterparts that have been using them since they were nearly a year old in some cases.
On the other hand, the report also finds that over half of parents say they sometimes use media to occupy their kids while they’re doing chores. Parents may be handing over these digital toys to their kids too early, relying on them as babysitting devices. As a society, we definitely have a lot of work to do both to improve access across socio-economic lines and to improve understanding of how best to use digital tools when our kids do have access.
Do you let your kids use mobile devices like iPads and iPhones, and if so, at what age did you first let them? How are they using them? Let us know in the comments.
Here’s a New York Times article that talks about the study further.
The full report can be read here.