Latino Youth

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key concepts



In the particular context of the USA there is a need for describing and analyzing the everyday mediated sociocultural practices of Latino/Hispanic youth. With increasing high birthrates and higher levels of population growth (grew 43% over the last decade), Hispanics/Latinos have become the largest minority in the country. (Passel, Cohn and Lopez, 2011) In 2011, for the first time in USA history, one-in-four (24.7%) public elementary school students were Hispanic, and among all pre-K through 12th grade public school students, 23.9% were Hispanic in 2011. (Fry, and Lopez 2012) In states such as Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, Hispanic/Latino students had the largest share of enrollment. Furthermore, in the last years Hispanic/Latino youth have increased considerably their access to digital technologies, their engagement with media, and their use of the Internet. For instance, one report from 2011, revealed that 77% of Hispanics/Latinos ages 16 to 25 use the Internet compared to 95% of non-Hispanics (Livingston, 2011). Another study, found that Latino/Hispanic youth are especially avid adopters of new media, spending about an hour and a half more each day than White youth using their cell phones, iPods and other mobile devices to watch TV and videos, play games, and listen to music. (Rideout, Lauricella, & Wartella, 2011)

the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority

There is a “New Mainstream” and bi‐cultured Hispanics are a major component

Hispanic-Latino families, who collectively represent the largest racial/ethnic minority group in the US.

The surge in Hispanic-Latino births is due largely to the relatively young median age within the current Hispanic-Latino population (Cauchon & Overberg, 2012).

Half of all members of this ethnic group in the US are under the age of 27, compared to a median age of 42 for non-Hispanic Whites and 32 for non-Hispanic Blacks (Motel, 2012). Further, nearly a quarter (23.1%) of all US children ages 17 and younger was of Hispanic-Latino descent in 2010 (Passel, Cohn & Lopez, 2011).

The large proportion of Hispanic-Latino youth has led the Pew Hispanic Research Center to predict that this ethnic group will grow from 16% of the US population to 29% by 2050 (Passel & Cohn, 2008).

Latinos are a diverse group with different cultural traditions and experi- ences. Throughout their analyses, they layout the diverse cultural practices and behaviors unique to different ethnic groups and describe the inter-group conflicts Latino groups face,

The rise of the Latino population within the U.S. as the country’s largest minority (first displacing African Americans from the top position in 2001)

latino youth, acculturation, immigrants

Immigrant Latino youth are here to stay.

understanding how Latino immigrant youth acculturate and adjust to life in the US and how they are being affected by the political backlash against immigrants must be seen as an important issue for educators today.

Unlike their parents, immigrant Latino youth often find themselves caught between two worlds, neither fully American, nor fully part of their parents’ country. Many also arrive without having experienced formal education in their countries of origin nor literacy in their native Spanish language. Consequently, there is growing evidence that immigrant youth are susceptible to a variety of hardships and pressures that many adults, including their parents, do not fully understand.

Noguera explains in "Latino Youth: immigration, education and the future," that several european groups gradually improved their social conditions and experienced the social mobility promised by the American Dream.

social mobility came with a price and some sacrifice. Many European immigrants found it necessary to abandon their native languages, to give up their cultures, and in many cases to ‘‘Anglocize’’ their names (Jiobu, 1988; Fass, 1989).

groups relinquished many of their ethnic and cultural distinctions to embrace a more socially acceptable American identity. With assimilation came social mobility and, over time, early stigmas and hardships were gradually overcome, as differences were erased (Glazer and Moynihan, 1963). Over generations, Irish, Italians, Jews, and others who were once perceived as ethnically inferior were gradually accepted as full-fledged white Americans (Roediger, 1991; Brodkin, 1999).

As Pedro Noguera explains in "Latino Youth: immigration, education and the future,"

"In sharp contrast, the situation is very different for Latino immigrants and their children. Although Latinos represent the fastest growing segment of the US population and are now the largest minority group, it is not clear that the future will be as bright and promising for them as it was for European immigrants of the past. Globalization and de-industrialization have contributed to a worsening of circumstances for low-skilled Latino immigrants. Ironically, Latinos now constitute the ethnic group least likely to be unemployed, but most likely to be impoverished (Smith, 2002). This is so because Latinos are concentrated in the lowest paying jobs and many lack the skills and education needed to seek better paying alternatives (Smith, 2002). Unlike European immigrants whose offspring reaped the rewards of their sacrifices, Latinos are not experiencing a similar degree of success (Portes and Rumbaut, 2002)."

The pervasiveness of racialized inequalities, particularly within education, at least partially ensures that Latino youth are more likely than any other ethnic group to be enrolled in schools that are not only segregated by race, but by class as well (Orfield and Eaton, 1996). In cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, where they comprise the majority of the school age population, Latinos are disproportionately consigned to schools that are overcrowded, underfunded and woefully inadequate on matters related to educational quality (Oakes, 2002; Noguera, 2003, 2004). For years, Latino youth have had the highest high school dropout rates and lowest rates for college attendance (Garcia, 2001). In general, they are overrepresented in most categories of crisis and failure (i.e., suspensions and expulsions, special education placements), while underrepresented in those of success (i.e., honors and gifted and talented classes) (Meieret al., 1990). Outside of schools, Latino youth find themselves more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than white youth, more likely to have children as teenagers, and less likely to graduate from college (Hayes- Bautista, 2002). In short, if the old adage that the youth are our future is correct, then current trends suggests that the Latino population in the US is in deep trouble.

assimilation no longer is the pathway to maisntream

research on the socialization of Latino immigrant youth shows that in a reversal of past patterns, assimilation no longer serves as the pathway into mainstream American culture and middle class status as it once did for European immigrants (Portes and Rumbaut, 2002).

evidence suggests that the socializa- tion associated with acculturation and assimilation often results in a lowering of the academic achievement and performance of Latino students (Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco, 2001).2

the latino condition

Though Ogbu’s work has been widely embraced by many scholars in the field of immigration, his framework has failed to accurately reflect the Latino condition.

There is simply too much diversity among Latinos; while some might be categorized as non-voluntary immigrants (e.g. Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and possibly Panamanians), others (especially those from Central and South America) clearly came to the US voluntarily – if fleeing war, repression or hunger can be considered a voluntary move.

Once they arrive in the US, new social, political, and economic forces take over in shaping social identities.

variations in social context could influence patterns of social adaptation.

A Mexican arriving in LA, or a Dominican arriving in Washington Heights in New York, can use Spanish in most of their day-to-day interactions and function in a monolithic culture for quite some time.

However, for Latinos who settle in a community that is more diverse, new forms of identity and affiliation may emerge and the significance attached to national identities may melt away, particularly among Latino immigrant youth.

Hybrid identities forged through interaction and familiarity with others develop naturally.

Latino-hispanic youth challenges. Youth as as social problem.

The negative issues facing Latino youths have been well documented: low educational attainment, lack of employment opportunities, poverty, teen pregnancy, and poor health status and limited care (Padilla, 1995; S. M. Perez, 1992; Romo & Falbo, 1996).

This is an unfortunate description too often attached to Latino youths in the United States. We may know how many Latinos complete high school or college or how many are located in various levels of poverty concentration, but we are no closer to knowing Latino youths because of it.

Another issue is labeling. The way we choose to describe Latino youths in this country limits our ability to know them or communicate any understand- ing we gain to others. In fact, our use of the term Latino is limiting in some ways; however, we have elected to use Latino to describe people who identify their ethnic heritage in Mexico, Central and South America, and areas in the Caribbean. Our preference would be to use the labels of national origin and location of current residence when possible to provide the richest description of these communities. Researchers rarely use such specific descriptors. Nonetheless, ethnic identity is an important precursor to understanding Latino youth development (Neimann, Romero, Arredondo, & Rodriguez, 1999; Oboler, 1992)

The tradition of focusing on and describing at length the problems and deficits that characterize Latino youths is long and deep. The focus on nega- tive aspects of Latino youth development has been based on a relatively unchallenged assumption that there are barriers that must be overcome to achieve successful youth development.

Recent estimates indicate that there is currently a higher proportion of Hispanic- Latino children living in poverty than from any other race/ethnicity (Lopez & Velasco, 2011), and that Hispanic-Latino children experience unfavorable health outcomes in greater numbers as well, including overweight/obesity, dental caries, and asthma (Flores et al., 2002).

The plight of Hispanic-Latino children is due, in part, to the greater rates of school drop-out (Fry, 2010), unemployment (Kochhar, 2010), and teenage pregnancy among this population relative to their White and Black peers (Pew Hispanic Center, 2009).

Each of these challenges is particularly pronounced among foreign-born Hispanics-Latinos, compared to those born in the US (Pew Hispanic Center, 2009).

Due perhaps in part to this lack of pre-primary school academic preparation, as well as disproportionate assignment to low quality schools and language barriers among Spanish- dominant students, school-age Hispanic-Latino students are more likely to score below proficient on standardized reading and math assessments (Hemphill, Vanneman & Rahman, 2011; KewalRamani et al., 2007). Notably, the most recent report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES, 2012) at Grade 8 indicates that average grade performance in science among Hispanic-Latino students has risen since 2009, narrowing existing gaps with non- Hispanic White students.

Hispanic-Latino adolescents who graduate from high school have relatively low college enrollment numbers, and an even smaller percentage goes on to graduate with a bachelor‘s degree, though these rates are on the rise (Fry, 2011). These realities are in spite of the fact that a majority of Hispanic-Latino youth report that attaining a college degree is important for life success and also perceive strong encouragement from parents and relatives to excel in academics and attend college (Lopez, 2009).

Low educational attainment : data from Pew Hispanic Center report (Motel, 2012). Data represents 2010 population of US residents 25 years old and older.

many Hispanic-Latino children experience discrimination in their daily lives. Nearly 40% of teens and young adults between 16 and 25 report that they or a close friend or family member have been the victim of ethnic discrimination (38%; Pew Hispanic Center, 2009). In a 2011 study of 7 to 12-year-old children, Hispanic-Latino children reported higher daily discrimination than their non-Hispanic Black and White peers, citing in particular that they were treated generally less well and with less respect because of their ethnicity (Dulin-Keita, Hannon, Fernandez, & Cockerham, 2011).

Many Hispanic-Latino youth describe discrimination from peers as well as teachers and other members of society, which is elicited by their English fluency, low family affluence, skin color, status as immigrants, and due to negative stereotypes (Edwards & Romero, 2008; Lee & Ahn, 2012). Furthermore, such blatant or perceived discrimination is associated with lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression and anxiety, and decreased academic motivation and performance among youth (DeGarmo & Martinez, 2006; Edwards & Romero, 2008; Lee & Ahn, 2012). Higher rates of perceived discrimination, as well as ―acculturative stress‖ due to adapting to a new culture place first generation Hispanic-Latino youth at even greater risk for these outcomes (Kuperminc, Wilkins, Roche, & Alvarez-Jimenez, 2009).

The Influence of Ethnic Identity

Ethnic identity is one area of adolescent development that has received some attention and has been viewed as an aspect of personal identity (Phinney, 1989; Phinney & Alipuria, 1990). Whereas much of the work in this area has focused on African Americans (e.g., Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jack- son, & Harris, 1993; Phinney, 1990), we are finding more work involving Latino youths (e.g., Bautista del Demanico, Crawford, & De Wolfe, 1994; Phinney, 1990; Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz, 1997). Moreover, the exploratory work in this area far outweighs theory-based empirical work (e.g., Kerwin et al., 1993; Knight, Bernal, Garza, Cota, & Ocampo, 1993; Marshall, 1995; Phinney, 1990; Phinney & Chavira, 1992; Stevenson, 1994).

Formation of ethnic identity in Latino adolescents is a complex process, complicated by building relationships in mainstream culture while partici- pating in families with various levels of traditions and acculturation.

Evidence exists regarding the interaction of contextual and developmental factors in the ethnic identity formation of adolescents, including such forces as family (Guanipa-Ho & Guanipa, 1998). Families provide the primary experiences of ethnic group membership for youths, and the degree to which parents are involved in the ethnic community relates directly to the stability of an adolescent’s ethnic identity.

we simply do not have a theoretical foundation on which we can understand Latino youth development and the development of their cultural identity.

he confluence of race and ethnicity and the limited contexts under which ethnic identity is studied and understood, not to mention experienced by Latino youths, have left practitioners and policy makers with soft grounding on which to build meaningful programs or effective and equitable public policy.


models regarding acculturation/biculturalism (Phinney & Devich-Navarro, 1997),

Phinney, J. S., & Devich-Navarro, M. (1997). Variations in bicultural identification among Afri- can American and Mexican American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 7(1), 3-32.

young Hispanics share a common upbringing that blends their experiences navigating both Latino and American worlds.

The mixing and blending of these cultures make for a unique iden- tity that can be both a positive and a negative experience at once. On the one hand, young Hispanics feel empowered, uniquely advantaged and optimistic because they can pick and choose the aspects of each culture that suit them best. On the other hand, societal and familial expectations can make it difficult for a young Latino to find his or her identity. Mainstream U.S. culture may dictate that they act a certain way, while their family members have different expectations.

Aside from shared experiences, it’s important to understand how Hispanic youth differs from older U.S. Hispanics. Technology, having set in motion a generational gap in the U.S. as a whole, has also set apart today’s generation of young Hispanics from their parents and grandparents. Young Hispanics’ high comfort level with technology allows them to connect with the media, content, brands, and each other in deeply engaging ways. Their virtual networks and rules of engagement differ greatly from those of their older relatives. Discovering and sharing new experiences is possible with just the push of a button.

Older Hispanics rely on young Hispanics to be translators of language and culture. Young Hispanics possess a vital role in the daily lives of this older generation as they translate for older family mem- bers at banks, supermarkets and doctor’s offices. Beyond these daily person-to-person translations,

young Hispanics are also translating American cultural experiences that set the context for many mar- keting and advertising messages aimed at older Hispanics. In short, understanding this key “gate- keeper”role canonlyhelpadvertiserslookingtoconnectwiththeU.S.Hispanicmarket.

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Educational opportunities

Theoretically at least, education should serve as a means out of poverty. As it has for other groups in the past, education should be the source of opportunity and a pathway to a better life. Unfortunately, more often than not, schools that serve Latino immigrant youth fail to become vehicles through which their dreams and aspirations can be fulfilled. Too many are trapped in the worst schools, and are treated as though their inability to speak fluent English were a sign of cognitive and cultural deficit. What will it take for education to serve immigrant Latino youth and become a genuine resource for Latino immigrants? How can educators help students to make the transition to a new society less painful, particularly for those who lack family support? How can we make sure that the needs of Latino immigrant students are not ignored because their parents lack the power and voice to make their needs heard? The answers to these questions could potentially help reshape educational opportunities for Latino immigrant youth in this country.

Media moguls, baseball team owners, and fast food restaurants now recognize Latinos as an important consumer market. However, recognizing that Latinos can vote and spend money does not mean that we necessarily have the ability to alter our status in this country. If our communities, schools, and social institutions are to provide the support and nurturing that our youth so desperately need, it will require us to develop a new educational direction and a new political strategy. Until that time, many Latino youth will remain like so many immigrant youth of the past, industrious and hopeful but trapped in circumstances that stifle their ambitions and dreams.


Latino-hispanics place a high value on family, naming it as the most significant contribution Latinos make to American society today.

With families as such a high priority for Hispanic communities, the issues facing children and youth are extremely important to Hispanics.

Hispanic-Latino families in the US are disproportionately likely to face a number of challenges.

the median household income among Hispanic-Latino households fell 66% between 2005 and 2009, from $18,359 to $6,325; this in comparison to the 2009 median White household income of $113,149 (Kochhar, Fry, & Taylor, 2011).

Parenting Styles Many factors must be taken into consideration when conceptualizing human developmental processes. Among these factors, parenting style and behavior have been shown to have a significant impact on children. Baumrind‘s (1966) parenting style labels—authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful—have long provided a focus through which to examine parental warmth, demandingness, autonomy granting, and the impact of these factors on children

Other research regarding youth identity development and parental support has linked the above constructs to higher academic achievement, and suggested that these factors can moderate the potential negative impact of other contextual factors such as SES and neighborhood characteristics on the development of Hispanic-Latino children (Ong, Phinney, & Dennis, 2006; Supple et al., 2006).

Parental Support and Identity Development Other dimensions of parenting, beyond traditional parenting style classifications are important to consider in youth development as well.

A study by Supple and colleagues (2006) examined the contextual factors that influence ethnic identity development and academic achievement among Hispanic-Latino adolescents. The study found that familial ethnic socialization, higher levels of parental involvement, and lower levels of harsh parenting were all positively associated with ethnic identity exploration and resolution among youth. In addition, low levels of parental involvement and high levels of harsh parenting were both associated with negative feelings among adolescents surrounding their ethnic identity (Supple, Ghazarian, Frabutt, Plunkett, & Sands, 2006).

Familismo The term familismo refers to ―a desire to maintain strong family ties,‖ and involves a strong ―commitment to the family over individual needs and desires‖ (Halgunseth, Ispa, & Rudy, 2006, p. 1285). Just like parental support and strong ethnic identity development, familismo has been linked to higher levels of academic success among Hispanic-Latino youth (Fuligni, 2001;

Fuligni, Tseng, & Lam, 1999). Although the presence and power of the familismo construct may not be generalizable to all Hispanic-Latino families, it is a value that seems to permeate a wide range of Hispanic-Latino culture (Fuligni, Tseng, & Lam, 1999).


bilinguism, biliteracy

Digital Media Implications When thinking about how Hispanic Latino families interact with and around digital media, protective parenting styles, familial ethnic socialization, and familismo are all important factors to take into consideration. For example, while Hispanic-Latino parents recognize that computers and Internet access can provide valuable educational opportunities, many are also concerned with the risks of letting their children go online (Tripp, 2011).

In addition, television watching is often seen as an intergenerational activity for Hispanic-Latino families to engage in together, helping to support positive family dynamics (Takeuchi, 2011; Tripp, 2011).

This is noteworthy for the Hispanic-Latino community where familial ethnic socialization has been shown to lead to positive identity development and positive achievement in school among youth (Supple et al., 2006; Umana-Taylor & Guimond, 2010). As such, researchers and developers should consider ways in which parents can help mediate the self-expression and identity formation that result from their children‘s engagement in the digital world.

Additionally, digital media should be developed which encourages intergenerational interaction. If watching television is indeed an activity that promotes intergenerational connectivity, the possibilities of using digital media for increased familial interaction are exciting and could help to further promote and deepen the culturally valuable bonds within Hispanic-Latino families (Takeuchi, 2011).

Compared to their non-Hispanic peers, young Hispanics have a different cultural outlook that is grounded in traditional Latino values, customs and traditions learned at home. Many feel that they value family (and extended family) differently than their non-Latino friends, especially since so many Hispanic families have multiple generations under one roof. When it comes to spirituality, young Hispanics generally consider themselves more conservative and closely aligned with the values their parents and grandparents instilled in them. Finally, dealing with stereotypes on a daily basis is an experience many young Hispanics feel their non-Hispanic friends are not exposed to. Encountering regular issues of racism and stereotyping--in the eyes of young Hispanics--is yet another reason they have a unique upbringing compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts.

young Hispanics since they possess influence over household purchases.

Latino Digital

active segment of the population

creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, inactives.

there is diversity, not a homogenous segment. Although many hispanic/latino are becoming the new mainstream, many of them do not. remain lower and working class. Although they are active users of digital media, they cannot consume that much.

Little is known about the specific activities in which Hispanic-Latino youth and their families engage in most via digital media technologies. What are the reasons for differences in access and use of various digital media between Hispanic-Latino families and others, between Hispanic-Latino families that vary by language dominance, US nativity, or other factors? What are the implications of those access and usage patterns might hold for Hispanic-Latino youth development, family relationships, and well-being?

In terms of identity formation, kids are turning increasingly to the online world and social networking sites to express themselves, and this expression impacts their sense of self (Ito et al., 2009).


quickly they have embraced mobile and social media;

engage heavily in social media,

Little is known about the specific activities in which Hispanic-Latino youth and their families engage in most via digital media technologies. It is not yet fully clear what reasons account for differences in access and use of various digital media between Hispanic-Latino families and others or between Hispanic-Latino families that vary by language dominance, US nativity, or other factors. The implications of those access and usage patterns might hold for Hispanic-Latino youth development, family relationships, and well-being are unknown"

consumer market

a growing audience a growing consumer market

To help respond to the growth of the Hispanic digital market, Univision developed a bilingual and social-media-oriented “UVideos” network in 2012. Keith Turner, “Univision’s 2013 Upfront Plans,” Univision Communications, 17 Jan. 2013, types/articles/univisions-2013-upfront-plans/#.UZ5ihIIvrF0 (viewed 27 May 2013).

“over-index in adoption and consumption across all the technologies that matter—mobile, tablet, social, connected devices and digital video.”2 Marketers closely following Hispanic use of digital media tout an array of similarly impressive statistics: “Seventy percent of Hispanics in the U.S. own a smartphone; their consumption of online video has soared 282 percent over the last five years; 60 percent of U.S. Hispanics desire more in- language digital video and say they would likely share this content with friends; and, Latinos are more receptive to messaging through mobile and social means than other demographics (more than 70 percent are more likely to purchase products they see advertised on their cell phones than non-Hispanics).”

"Andy England, CMO of MillerCoors, recently told Forbes: “Given that Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, and that they are extremely digitally active, my prediction is that marketers will become increasingly focused on Latino Digital.” - See more at:,-but-D.aspx#sthash.sJ6sD3EW.dpuf"

Kevin Conroy, “Technology is Disrupting the Media Industry, but Digital Media Demand is Being Driven by Hispanics,” Digital Dialogue, 16 Jan. 2013,

Adweek writes, “are disproportionately inclined to use smartphones, tablets and other connected devices.”  Hispanics, in addition to using these devices at a higher rate than the average American, are demanding that more digital content – news, sports and entertainment, and  of course, telenovelas – be available to them wherever and however they want to consume it. - See more at:,-but-D.aspx#sthash.sJ6sD3EW.dpuf

Digital Inequalities

Today’s digital divide for low-income families and people of color is less about quantity or access, and more about quality—what people are doing online.

The number is even more striking for Hispanic youth, who spend 13 hours per day consuming media compared with just less than 8.5 hours per day for white youth. For Hispanic youth, especially, the gap is no longer centered on access. It’s about participation and engagement as well.

Hispanic-Latino teens and young adults use mobile and Internet technology more frequently than older adults, though this demographic still has access to these technologies at a lower rate than their non-Hispanic peers (Livingston, 2010; Lopez & Livingston, 2010).

there are marked differences based on nativity. US-born Hispanic-Latino youth (ages 16-25) are more likely than the foreign-born to use the Internet (91% vs. 58.5%), own a cell phone (84% vs. 70%) and send daily text messages (65% vs. 26%; Livingston, 2010; Lopez & Livingston, 2010). When it comes to total time spent with media (TV/movies, computer, music, print, cell phone, and video games), however, Hispanic-Latino as well as Black youth between ages 8 and18 spend more time on average consuming media than their White peers (13 hours/day for Hispanic- Latino and Black youth; 8:36 hours/day for White youth; Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010).

Furthermore, Hispanic-Latino youth spend more time than their non-Hispanic White peers with each discrete form of media (TV, movies, video games, music, computer, cell phone) except print (e.g., books, magazines).

Looking to the future, digital media will continue to become a ubiquitous part of society. The costs for devices such as smartphones and tablet computers will likely become more affordable and therefore accessible to a greater number of families. Creating opportunities for Hispanic- Latino parents to gain knowledge of the operation, affordances, and benefits of digital media could allow them to mediate their children's media experiences more effectively. This is particularly important as mere access to digital technologies does not guarantee benefits for youth. Rather, the outcomes associated with use are largely impacted by the nature of participation and content in which youth engage, prompting leading scholars like Craig Watkins to call for increased attention to the ―digital literacy divide‖ in addition to access divides (Watkins, 2011). In one longitudinal study, Vigdor and Ladd (2010) found that the adoption of Internet in the home was associated with lower grades among students in grades 5 through 8 (though already having access was associated with benefits). Taking a different approach, Goode (2010) examined through several case studies how the ―technology identity‖ kids develop during elementary and high school can impact their college academic and social experiences in favorable or unfavorable ways.

= New Divides (or the complexity of the digital divide)

In the 1990s, the term “digital divide” emerged to describe technology’s haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families. 

Those efforts have indeed shrunk the technology access divide.

As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

  • NYT : Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era

growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.

The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers. 

The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.

“Digital literacy is so important,” said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the commission, adding that bridging the digital divide now also means “giving parents and students the tools and know-how to use technology for education and job-skills training.”

Half of all Hispanics and 41 percent of African-American homes lack broadband.

But “access is not a panacea,” said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft. “Not only does it not solve problems, it mirrors and magnifies existing problems we’ve been ignoring.” 

Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment.

“We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.

A study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families. In 1999, the difference was just 16 minutes.

The study found that children of parents who do not have a college degree spend 11.5 hours each day exposed to media from a variety of sources, including television, computer and other gadgets. That is an increase of 4 hours and 40 minutes per day since 1999.

(Kaiser double counts time spent multitasking. If a child spends an hour simultaneously watching TV and surfing the Internet, the researchers counted two hours.)

“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,” said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”

Policy makers and researchers say the challenges are heightened for parents and children with fewer resources — the very people who were supposed to be helped by closing the digital divide.

The concerns are brought to life in families like those of Markiy Cook, a thoughtful 12-year-old in Oakland who loves technology.

At home, where money is tight, his family has two laptops, an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii, and he has his own phone. He uses them mostly for Facebook, YouTube, texting and playing games.

HE attends a rough school. Describe characteristics of the school.


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