After access: Children's computing in low and middle income homes
William J. Tally, City University of New York, United States
City University of New York . Awarded
At the turn of the 21st century, concerns about a growing 'digital divide' in the U.S. have led to a host of efforts to wire low-income communities and homes. Yet as technology access for low-income Americans has increased, what children and families actually do with computers after access has remained murky. This study provides a snapshot of children' computer use in 10 middle-income families, and 10 low-income families who were given free computers and low-cost access to the Internet. Through observations and interviews, the study maps differences in what children are doing with their home computers, the digital literacies they exhibit, and the family supports available to them as they learn to use computers for different ends. The findings suggest that middle class children are learning to appropriate digital tools in individualistic, instrumental and expressive ways that will likely serve them in the digital workplace, while working class and poor children, even when they have access to computers and the Internet at home, are not. At the same time, the study finds that the 'social envelope' of children's computing differs within middle and low income communities: parents in both types of households influence their children's technology use in subtle yet important ways, even while children use the medium to 'push back' against parental oversight and control. Challenging monolithic conceptions of social class as well as the notion that home computer access is an unambiguous good, the study maps the changing domestic landscape in which childhood and family life are becoming ever more digital.
Tally, W.J. After access: Children's computing in low and middle income homes. Ph.D. thesis, City University of New York.
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