WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- New research funded by the U.S. Department of Education''s Office of Innovation and Improvement and conducted by the Michael Cohen Group LLC, under the auspices of a grant to the Ready to Learn Partnership (RTLP), reveals that many children from low income families now have access to a variety of technology to help aid in learning. Specifically, nearly 75 percent of caregivers at the federal poverty level (annual household income of less than $25,000) report they subscribe to cable television, two-thirds have DVD players, more than half have mobile telephones, more than one-third have computers and more than one-quarter have home access to the Internet. Most notably, while television took nearly three decades to become universal, nearly 40 percent of low income families now have computers and almost a third have Internet access at home in just the last five to seven years. This new research suggests that given the proliferation of media across the socioeconomic spectrum, although significant differences do exist by income level, a stark digital divide no longer captures the relationship between income and technology ownership and that technology is integrated into children''s lives, regardless of their families'' income.
Key purposes of the Ready to Learn grant are to uncover the role of technology in helping young children get ready to read, particularly children from lower income families and to measure the effectiveness of pre-emergent literacy "media interventions," such as the "WordWorld" program airing on PBS. As such, the Michael Cohen Group, the Principal Investigator for the RTLP, recently conducted a national phone survey of 1,601 parents and caregivers of children ages two to eight to determine technology ownership and usage across income levels. Half (800) of the interviews focused on caregivers with annual household incomes at or below the poverty level.
"For years, Congress has supported literacy-based television programming to help pre-schoolers get ready to read and to foster reading skills among school-aged children," said Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and a leading advocate for early childhood education. "This new study shows that we are making progress in closing the digital divide and that television and computers can be effective tools to reach children, regardless of income levels, in an effort to help them become productive and successful adults."
"According to the survey, families from every income level own and use technology, albeit with differences in the frequency of participation based on income. However, the rate at which lower income families have come to own media technology has been astonishingly quick," said Dr. Michael Cohen, president, Michael Cohen Group, LLC, and principal investigator, Ready to Learn Partnership. "The metaphor of the digital divide no longer captures the relationship between income and technology ownership. The current state is perhaps best described as a digital continuum."
Television remains the most pervasive form of technology in the home. According to the survey, virtually all (96 percent) children between the ages of two to eight watch television every day, and more than three-quarters (81 percent) typically view more than one hour per day. Furthermore, 41 percent of the parents and caregivers report that their young children typically watch television three or more hours per day. Overall, one-quarter (28 percent) of children have a television in their bedroom.
About 45 percent of caregivers at the poverty level report using a computer on a daily basis. This figure increases to nearly 100 percent of caregivers from incomes of more than $75,000 annually. While computer ownership correlates with income, among computer owners, computer use does not seem to correlate with income. In fact, a slightly higher percentage of low-income computer owners compared to the general population report using their home computer once or more a week for professional or work tasks (68 percent compared to 55 percent, respectively), for saving photographs and other images (50 percent versus 40 percent, respectively) and for study purposes (45 percent versus 38 percent, respectively).
While television among young children is more popular than computers, young children begin using computers at a very young age. Only four percent of two-year-olds and eight percent of three-year-olds have ever used the computer (in households with computers). This figure increases to one-quarter of four- and five-year-olds (25 percent and 27 percent, respectively), more than half of six-year-olds (53 percent), nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of seven-year-olds and 83 percent among eight-year-olds.
The majority of computer owners have Internet access at home, with little variation by income -- meaning, home computer ownership tends to equate with home online access, regardless of income.
Ninety-three percent of online households with income levels of $75,000 and higher have high speed access, compared to 65 percent of households with an income of $25 - $75,000 and 58 percent of households at $25,000 or less.