A report in the United Kingdom has reported a worrying trend about internet access for British children. The UK has one of the highest internet penetration figures in the world, but this doesn’t tell the full story. If you read the official figures something like 90% of children are able to access the internet at their homes. However a study has broken these figures down by income levels and found a dramatic change.
If you look at the richest 10% of households you’ll find almost everyone has access to the internet – some 99%. However in the poorest 10% then just over 50% of pupils have access to the word wide web in some format or other. This is a huge difference and suggests there is still an enormous digital divide in the UK. Just to put this into real numbers, the figures equate to about 3/4 million children with no internet access, and about 650,000 who have no access to a computer at home.
This is a real disadvantage to such children in many ways. Purely on an academic level, they are at a disadvantage as researching subjects and homework is much easier using the internet. In fact much home work now relies on access to the internet, rather than traditional learning where a good set of encyclopedias would be sufficient. The E Learning revolution only increases the problems for such disadvantaged children – my son’s maths homework is all completed and marked online.
In many countries an internet connection is perhaps more of a luxury, if none of your fellow pupils have access then it’s not such a disadvantage at least locally. However I have seen many classes of English in some schools relying on content on the BBC website. A Singapore private school assigned pupils a private VPN like this site illustates to watch the BBC anywhere – http://www.theninjaproxy.org/tv/how-to-use-a-bbc-iplayer-proxy/.
But it is not just the academic benefits that can cause a problem. Many young people rely on social networking sites for much of their interaction – sites like Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter are an everyday part of life. Pupils who have no access to the internet through computers or phones are also isolated from these social networks and can feel left out.
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