Internet access used to be more of luxury, but as technology continues to infiltrate daily interactions, it has become more and more of a necessity.
This social stratification, typically based on urbanization and income level, originates from all types of technology becoming more commonplace in the lives of some, but remaining out of reach to others. It is known as the digital divide.
American children have the most to lose at the hands of the digital divide. In fact, the area of the digital divide that affects children is so significant, it has become a concept all its own: the homework gap.
The homework gap has developed in tandem with the implementation of online schooling. In 2015, seven out of ten American teachers assigned homework that requires internet access at home. Even students that go to a regular physical school are given homework requiring an online component to fulfill curriculum requirements.
For students that don’t have internet at home, public libraries, local fast food restaurants, and sometimes even commercial parking lots have become the only method of completing homework. Even though it appears that every child has some level of access, many school-aged students ride the school bus straight home from school and stay there for the rest of the evening.
This is especially the case in rural communities where they may reside miles away from public internet access. Residents of these communities usually have limited options for home internet connections, and many times the cost is very high.
Nearly half of the students given online homework are unable to complete it; they end up accepting a low grade. That is fifty percent of school aged children who are learning to be content with below par performance because they lack the necessary resources. When citizens remain unconnected, the value of a connection is never fully understood. When unconnected children become adult members of society, the importance of education may be lost to the memory of their own partially supported experiences.
The nation has a lot to gain from connecting the underserved. Just a 20% increase in information and communication technology investment can increase GDP by a full percentage point. Bringing all American citizens online will create more opportunities for innovation and discovery, strengthening the nation’s global position.
If nothing is done to address this situation, the homework gap phenomenon will continue to advance until the divide becomes too cumbersome to repair. Our children are our future, and so the question is what should we be doing to ensure they are prepared for it?