Study claims computer access hurts school performance

    Politicians and educators have devoted many resources to bridging the so-called “Digital Divide”. But a new study from Duke University suggests that getting kids computers and internet access at home can hurt school performance. Maiken Scott reports from WHYY’s Behavioral Health desk:

    Politicians and educators have devoted many resources to bridging the so-called “Digital Divide”. But a new study from Duke University suggests that getting kids computers and internet access at home can hurt school performance.

    The study evaluated test scores of 150,000 students over a five year period. Researchers compared children’s reading and math scores before and after they acquired a home computer, and compared them to students who didn’t get a computer. They found that the computer and internet access had a negative effect on test scores. This especially affected students from disadvantaged families.

    These findings don’t surprise local education experts. Villanova University’s Jerusha Conner says in her own research students had trouble staying focused on their school work:

    Conner: It was very hard for the students to separate the time they spend for recreational activities from the time they spent on homework, because often times, they are doing the two simultaneously.

    Advocates for media literacy education say computers are a powerful tool, but have to be accompanied by instructions on how to use them for learning. David Cooper Moore from Temple University’s Media Education Lab says kids need skills – and parents need to be involved:

    Moore: Taking an interest in what your kids are watching, are reading, are viewing, just that act of taking an interest oftentimes opens up a two-way conversation that can turn what seems like just fun into a learning experience

    Moore says students should learn media literacy skills starting at the age of five.

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