Change in Computer Access and the Academic Achievement of Immigrant Children
by Ui Jeong Moon & Sandra Hofferth — 2018
Background/Context: Increased interest in the correlates of media devices available to children has led to research indicating that access to and use of technology are positively associated with children’s academic achievement. However, the digital divide remains; not all children have access to digital technologies, and not all children can acquire technological literacy. Specifically, immigrant families are known to be slow to adopt new technologies in the increasingly digital society of the United States.
Purpose/Objective: This study examined whether the benefits of computer access observed in the general U.S. population were also applicable to children from immigrant families in the early 2000s.
Research Design: Using data on 2,139 children in immigrant families from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten cohort, this study examined the association between children’s gaining access to a computer at home and their reading and mathematics test scores between the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
Findings/Results: We found that if children had access to a computer during the early elementary school years, they demonstrated increased mathematics test scores later on.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Three characteristics of computer access are discussed in terms of implications for media popular today, including type of media (old vs. new), featured functions of technology, and timing of availability to children. In particular, the computer’s spatial and virtual functions may be likely to translate into improved mathematics skills, especially when access occurs early in kindergarten and first grade. Extra effort is needed to inform immigrant and minority parents about the benefits of new technologies so that their children can access them at home as much as children from nonimmigrant and nonminority families. To lessen the digital divide in children’s education, timely financial support and educational information should be provided to parents to encourage early adoption of new media technologies, thus ensuring that immigrant and minority children are not left behind in the digital age.
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