Digital divide challenges of children in low-income families: The case of Shanghai

In this blog post,Yu-cheung Wong describes the paper he presented at #husita14. The paper was selected for inclusion in the special husITa14 issue of the Journal of Technology in Human Services.


This research paper explored the issue of the digital divide in Shanghai with particular attention to children from low-income families.  It examined whether a difference in the Internet access of children was associated with their academic and psychosocial attributes.  Data were collected in 2013/14 from a household survey with a representative sample of about 800 each from low-income and non-low-income families with children aged 9-17.  About 20% of the children from low-income families had no Internet connection at home compared with only 5% among those from non low-income families. There was an even more obvious gap in smartphone usage too.  Our findings suggest that the digital divide for low-income children in Shanghai is getting smaller or even closing, but the urban-rural divide might be a factor in aggravating digital exclusion.  Preliminary group comparisons show that low-income-no-Internet children reported significantly lower scores on all dimensions of digital literacy, academic performance, aspirations, perceived efficacy, self-esteem, family and peer relationships.  On the contrary, low-income children with Internet access did not show significant differences with non-low-income group across all dimensions. Whilst we cannot conclude that there is a direct relationship between Internet access and improved developmental outcomes, the strength of the association suggests that there may be value in efforts being focused on assisting families in the lowest income strata, and on agricultural household registration, to acquire home Internet access.

Access the paper.

Yu-cheung Wong  e: ycwong[email protected]  |  whttp://web.swk.cuhk.edu.hk/?id=3293

Image credit | Flickr | Peter Morgan

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