(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

Efforts to bridge the “digital divide” of the 1990s have resulted in technology being more widespread across the country, regardless of income. But it appears that researchers and policy makers are finding a new troubling divide.

According to The New York Times, studies are finding that children from lower-income families are using technology for entertainment purposes at a rate that is much higher than children from more well-off families, which is being dubbed the “time-wasting gap.”

According to a 2010 study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 more minutes per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families; that is compared to 16 minutes in 1999. Additionally, reports The Times, the study found these children spend 11.5 hours each day “exposed to media from a variety of sources, including television, computer and other gadgets,” which is an increase of four hours and 40 minutes per day from 1999.

“Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” says study author Vicky Rideout. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”

The Times reports that the Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a “digital literacy corps” to visit schools and libraries and teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers as a way to combat the so-called time-wasting gap:

“Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft. These efforts complement a handful of private and state projects aimed at paying for digital trainers to teach everything from basic keyboard use and word processing to how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography.”

Read the rest of the article

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter.