How Do Your Teens Use the Internet?

OECD research says online use reflects socio-economic status

internet
(Image: iStock.com/sturti)

How do your teens use the internet? Are they playing online video games, or signing up for free classes? Are they learning more about our election process, or about celebrity gossip? How they use the internet may be an indication of their socio-economic status.

According to an article by the World Economic Forum that examines research from the OECD, in many countries young people from wealthy or poor backgrounds spend roughly the same amount of time online.

[Related: [REPORT] Students Who Use Tech in School Don’t Fare Better]

But it’s how they use the internet that really matters, not how long they’re online.

The research shows that the difference is stark: Higher-income teens “were more likely to use the internet to search for information or to read news rather than to chat or play video games.”

It’s not that wealthier kids aren’t playing video games too, they are. But that isn’t the only way they use the internet.

Based on data from more than 40 countries, the report concludes that the so-called digital divide persists despite there being equal access to the internet. The access may be equal, but low-income students are choosing less profitable ways to spend their time.

Time Online

According to the report, both higher-income and lower-income teens spent roughly the same amount of time on the internet. Disadvantaged students spent as much time online as wealthier young people; in some countries, they spent more time online.

“But in all countries, what students do with computers, from using e-mail to reading news, is directly linked to their ‘socio-economic status,’” states the WEF.

“Equal access does imply equal opportunities,” says the OECD report, but “[Students] may not have the knowledge or skills required to turn online opportunities into real opportunities,” the report says.

Fluent Reading Skills

Although many seem to equate internet access with higher quality education, the greater need is for fluent reading skills, the OECD says. That is what will close the digital divide:

“Proficiency in online reading and navigation requires students to plan and execute a search, evaluate … information, and assess the credibility of” online sources.

It will also unlock the rich resources of the online world to young people of any socio-economic status.



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