New digital divide: Lower-income kids waste more time with their gadgets

When technology first began to infiltrate American childhoods, there were fears of a digital divide; children from lower-income families would not have access to the emerging new technologies because of the cost and thus fall behind their more affluent peers whose families could afford cell phones, computers and video game systems.

However, now that access to cell phones and other electronics is widespread, there are fears of a new divide: Poorer kids are wasting more time on their assorted electronic and computer gadgets than more affluent peers.

“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 a decade-long Kaiser study on online patterns, in a New York Times story on the issue. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”

Closing the digital divide is not improving the educational outcomes of low-income kids, in part because their families have the least ability to monitor their usage of electronics or limit their time.

These issues are important to understand as we are increasingly urged to expand online education options for students, even elementary-age children. But all children, regardless of income, have come to largely see computer and electronics as entertainment. The challenge is recasting technology as an educational tool.

Here is an excerpt of The New York Times piece:

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.

This 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. “I’m not antitechnology at home, but it’s not a savior,” said Laura Robell, the principal at Elmhurst Community Prep, a public middle school in East Oakland, Calif., who has long doubted the value of putting a computer in every home without proper oversight.

“So often we have parents come up to us and say, ‘I have no idea how to monitor Facebook,’ ” she said.

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.”

F.C.C. officials and other policy makers say they still want to get computing devices into the hands of every American. That gaps remains wide — according to the commission, about 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure is 40 percent in households with less than $20,000 in annual income. 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.” Like other researchers and policy makers, 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.

Children of more educated parents, generally understood as a proxy for higher socioeconomic status, also largely use their devices for entertainment. In families in which a parent has a college education or an advanced degree, Kaiser found, children use 10 hours of multimedia a day, a 3.5-hour jump 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.)

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

63 comments Add your comment

Read Ruby Payne

May 31st, 2012
5:31 am

Ruby Payne addresses this. Entertainment > education in poor families. Actually quite an eye opener when you read and understand generational poverty. Google her name.

Peter Smagorinsky

May 31st, 2012
5:59 am

If you read Ruby Payne, please read how her critics view her as well, e.g.,


May 31st, 2012
7:06 am

I found in my classroom that when we were on computers I had to constantly monitor students to keep them on task. One boy in particular would always go to game or video websites when I would help other students with their work. It got to the point I took him off the computer completely and gave him alternate assignments in textbooks or other written text. Our high school tried going completely to ebooks, but they found that students were consistently off task going to game websites, facebook, or sending e-mails so much that eventually the teachers went back to textbooks. It was a huge failure in time and money.

bootney farnsworth

May 31st, 2012
7:24 am

there is no doubt tech addiction is a major and growing problem with society.
in the dark ages when I was a kid, we played baseball. today’s kids sit inside and play Halo.
they’ve become research lazy and socially inept.

but I don’t see it as unique to lower income and/or minority kids. its a much bigger problem than that.


May 31st, 2012
7:25 am

Awesome, another $200 million government program with a nebulous “goal” that will be impossible to “grade” with respect to effectiveness. WTF.

Atl Teacher

May 31st, 2012
7:30 am

Concerned – I had the same experience with my classes. However, when I did a technology survey, most of my students did not have computers at home. Those that did didn’t have internet access. Therefore, the first chance they got on computers they were “wasting time”. I ended up allowing kids time to check email, play games, etc once the were done with their assignments.

bootney farnsworth

May 31st, 2012
7:32 am

a friend of mine who teaches at GPC tells me students using technology for non instructional purposes has gotten so bad kids don’t even bother hiding it anymore.

s/he used to tell them to put it away, but doesn’t even bother anymore. experience has taught most of the offenders are not gonna make it to the end of the semester, so s/he as adapted by using it as a weeding out indicator.


May 31st, 2012
7:38 am

Instead of the ridiculous goal of tech as educational, why not replace computer time with sports, reading or musical instruments???

And 10 hrs a day of multimedia does not seem possible as an average.

If a kid goes home and only watches TV from 3-8 that’s 5 hrs.

say what?

May 31st, 2012
7:45 am

I met a lady who bragged that her 3 year old could work her smart phone better than she. I quickly responded what is so great about a child knowing how to push buttons? Now when your three year old can program those buttons, come see me.

You can go to any toy store and see the rows of toys with buttons to push to get the “right” answer. People claim their toddler is smart because s/he gets the right answer. No your child is whacking buttons until it elicits a response from the toy or a smile from you. They then learn to whack away again and again until they learn like Pavlov’s dogs.

Atlanta Mom

May 31st, 2012
8:09 am

Gosh, even double counting, ten hours is a lot.
It was a constant battle in HS. I wanted to limit my kids time on the computer, but that’s where the homework was.
My children are all in college now, and they don’t take their computers to class because they know it’s too distracting. Most of the students are checking emails instead of taking notes. And some professors have banned them from the classroom. So much for a learning tool.

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
8:20 am

Peter: I’ve read Payne and some of the criticism of her work. Like any educational “program” out there, Payne’s work can be used as a part of a plan for helping kids from poverty. I like what Gainesville schools are doing; they’re connecting kids with resources they need as well as addressing the educational concerns. To me, that’s what any school or system dealing with a large percentage of kids from poverty should be doing. Having worked for years in a high poverty school, I’ve found much of Payne’s observations to be applicable in understanding my kids and scaffolding instruction for them that works. Payne’s work isn’t a “bible” for working with children from poverty, but it does in fact help teachers understand some of the ways poverty may be affecting their students. Schools have to apply what fits their needs, and Payne’s work is a good starting point, in my opinion.

As to the topic of today’s thread, I don’t find the facts surprising. Technology, especially to those with limited access, can become a vast source of entertainment. I’m glad to hear that some are now recognizing the need for parent education. I’ve said many times that parents are providing technology for their kids without any real understanding of its impact on the kids. As much as kids in general value entertainment, it is an ongoing struggle to teach them how to balance the educational application with the entertainment. I use the entertainment aspects as “carrots” that kids can have once the required work is done. That’s a real-life skill and one kids will have to develop as they head into a career world where they’ll have to balance their use of technology.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

May 31st, 2012
8:32 am

Entertainment or enlightenment? Edutainment or education?


May 31st, 2012
8:51 am

I think this horse is out of the barn and has been for some time. I had all desk tops taken out of my classroom because of previously mentioned abuses by students. Our county has given blessing to BYOT yep bring it on in the school house. Some students are capable of controlling urges to check facebook or twitter accounts but most are not. As with most technological advances, what starts out good is eventually corrupted by us. Heaven help this country because this type of thing will not benefit us in the long run.

Another Math Teacher

May 31st, 2012
8:54 am

Concerned: “I found in my classroom that when we were on computers I had to constantly monitor students to keep them on task. One boy in particular would always go to game or video websites when I would help other students with their work.”

You can either black list or white list sites. You can block executables. This is a failure of the I.T. department and Administration of your district to train teachers to control a computer lab. Teachers who can not control a computer lab have no business bringing their classes there.

Howard Finkelstein

May 31st, 2012
9:04 am

Studies, gadgets, good-will, money, hopes and dreams will not close the achievement gap. Perhaps good parenting will. I know its probably considered a far-fetched, ultra-crazy, pie in the sky idea but it may just work.

da bear

May 31st, 2012
9:05 am

I am in a school that uses net books almost exclusively. Students are masters at playing games, facebooking and going to illegal sites. I have had several bright students fail/under perform due to distraction from the net books. We will have some monitoring software next year but I am not that encouraged.

Cell phones are another major problem. Students will take F’s on tests rather than put away their smart phones and stop surfing. (I always wondered why my school has 90+% free lunch and 80% cell phones and half of those are the latest smart phones. ) I have repeatedly been physically threatened by parents whose children’s phones had been taken up during my class, even during tests. They have defended their children’s cursing and screaming about who pays for their phone and who can and cannot touch it. The status symbol is far more important than a trifling thing like respect, obedience and an education.

C Jae of EAV

May 31st, 2012
9:08 am

In my observation, I’ve not noticed a particular socio-economic slant to the concern that would manifest the effect disportionately higher in “lower income” family structures. The effect being decribed is very real in my direct experience and its seems more a factor of style of parenting. Over time, I’ve come to personally adjusting my style in an effort to bring some balance to the situation.

Often parents buy these gadgets with misguided motivations and then subsequently seem reluctant to correct the “mistake”. Instead we simply endure and excuse it off as just the way kids are today. As parents we have to be more accountable for stage we set.

Personally, I think technology in educational settings is over perscribed and under-utilized. Meaning there is alot of equiptment being installed but its providing little in the way of enhancing the educational experience of most students. There are some institutions that seem to strike a value-added balance, but there are many that do not. Thus the presence of these devices in the educational setting only tends to add to the distraction.


May 31st, 2012
9:13 am

Yeah lets take the only thing a poor kid has. That will teach them to be poor. I mean why is he not taking art classes, ballet, or meeting with OWS groups. If they could only borrow golf clubs or a horse from the stables. Those pesky poor kids. Why cant they be more like rich kids or the kids of educators….OMG

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
9:16 am

C Jae- that’s it exactly. It all depends on the application and supervision of the technology. Instead of griping, we have to get busy educating kids and parents about what’s acceptable. I have found that if I make it an argument, then it becomes a problem. I allow kids to use the entertainment aspects once the educational goals are met. They understand the balance because I teach it to them. Do they slip up and misuse it sometimes? Yes they do, but that becomes a teachable moment. I’m reading complaints here and thinking that instead of making the technology a negative battle, maybe we should learn and teach how to incorporate it positively. It becomes a distraction if you don’t monitor and guide use of it. It become a discipline situation if you make it one. Occasionally I have a kid go to far, but I still deal with it quietly and it gets better.


May 31st, 2012
9:16 am

Just a thought. I wasted many hours of my time as a child reading fairy tales and comic books and watching television shows about private detectives. I also wasted many hours wandering the neighborhood looking for box turtles, fighting war games throwing mudballs, and playing wedding with my dolls. Few life skills were learned or modeled in any of these activities. I grew up to be a noncriminal white collar worker college graduate who only married once and has no superpowers. Where are the outcomes for these children that prove their time-wasting activities will doom them as adults? It seems to me that children always do lots of patently useless things (by adult standards) with their time. The issue of paying attention in class is about appropriate behavior, which is different. In the recent Avengers movie, at the super-important military base, one guy is playing video games instead of monitoring some vastly significant event. That’s reality. Some people are goof-offs. Are all low-income family children going to be goof-offs as adults? Or just the usual percentage you’d get regardless of technology?


May 31st, 2012
9:29 am

How many kids in India (who seem to be kicking tail and taking names) or China have access to Broadband? Funny but I would hazard to guess it is less than the US but they are the ones designing all the gadgets for the kids in this country to use.

Yankee Prof

May 31st, 2012
9:29 am

And, I’m sorry to say, those same lower-income students are more likely to use their Pell or other financial aid refund money to purchase those electronic toys as opposed to their college textbooks.

Don Abernethy

May 31st, 2012
9:32 am

Letting gadgets do all the mental work for you is bound to reduce out ability to solve problems using our brains. I am told that today’s students are less apt to know how to spell,write, do math problems etc. Depending on computers for some things is good but there is no substitute for reading,writing and arithmetic.Most children today are not serious about studying. When I watch competition programs like the recent one sponsored by National Geographic I notice that the best contestants are usually from Asian countries. Our kids are too busy playing with gadgets.


May 31st, 2012
9:35 am

Amen @Another Math Teacher. It’s not just the parents who need to educated on how to monitor technology, but apparently the school systems, too.

Corporations long ago figured out that Facebook, personal email, and games are a distraction (no, it’s not just teens) and blocked the sites from their networks.

Jim Tavegia

May 31st, 2012
9:35 am

Technology in the classroom has not helped student performance. As a teacher I can tell you that students do more surfing the internet than work at school and they have found work-arounds to get to sites like Facebook and MySpace through other sites they visit. They have more technology than any other generation, yet still complain vociferously about having to write even a paragraph or page on any subject….this from a generation who can’t stop talking for a second. Go figure.

Yet the worst think in public schools are the constant use of cell phone by students. Cell phones are the largest distraction in school and if the state and administrators really wanted to fix education they would totally ban them from school. I spend (waste) too much time telling them to turn their phones off, turn their music off and put those ear buds away.

We now have an epidemic lazy that has it public school that will probably never be fixed as school boards and administrators do not have the stomach to legislate this ban of technology. The lower income students who have a greater risk of failure are the worst offenders. There is no less technology due to income anymore. It would take the Governor or the legislature to get involved to fix this now. You can’t count on parents to be of much help any more. They don’t want to parent any more, they want to be a friend and advocate to their children. They don’t what to deal with the fall out of diciplining their children. There is nothing wrong with public education, it is lazy, irresponsible students and parents who will not step in and take away the phones and mp3 devices. We no longer use technology in the right way.


May 31st, 2012
9:40 am

When I was growing up in the early 90’s, there were educational electronics and “fun” electronics. The handhelds were completely separate. When we were on desktop computers, there was no access to the internet and they removed Solitaire and Minesweeper from the computers as well.

Now, there is an expectation that EVERY computer in a school be connected to the internet. Regardless of whatever firewalls they put in, kids will get around them. Simply put, if we give kids that have learning (spelling, math, etc) programs on it and eliminate any distractions we will be stepping in the right direction.

But hey, angry birds does teach you about gravity and momentum…heh.

Eddie G

May 31st, 2012
9:55 am

Oh no!! What shall we blame the failures of the poor on now? Don’t worry folks………the next scapegoat is just around the corner.


May 31st, 2012
10:05 am

Ron F has the right approach. Technology is a tool for learning. We have to teach kids to use the tool for educational use of the tool. It’s all about the approach we take with our students…..and the expectations we set, based on common sense and our common goals of helping all our students to learn!


May 31st, 2012
10:23 am

We have BYOT in my wealthy suburban county. A few students bring laptops or iPads, but cell phones make up the vast majority of the technology brought to school. While the intentions were good, overall it has been a disaster. I don’t fault my students – I know I have a hard time maintaining focus if my phone is buzzing/alerting me to a text, FB update, email, or phone call, and I am an adult. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for me to teach with my phone in my back pocket. Impossible, probably. At 15, with a shorter attention span and significantly less impulse control, I’m not sure how any of my students were able to learn last year.
The use of technology, unless focused directly on an educational task, hurts all students – wealthy or poor. The only reason it has a larger impact on economically disadvantaged students is because school has historically been more difficult for this population due to a whole host of reasons. Throwing a powerful distraction on to the already overwhelming mountain many of these students must climb is unfair, but it is the reality.


May 31st, 2012
10:47 am

@Jim Tavegia….Amen, you took the words right out of my mouth.

C Jae of EAV

May 31st, 2012
10:52 am

@ Jim Tavegia – I believe your catagorical claim regarding technology in the classroom is false. The truth is as @Ron F have both pointed to, its a matter of application and the willingness of supervising adults to reforce accountability with regard to intended use.

I concur that cell phones are a big source of distraction. What’s interesting is that most (if not all) local districts have explict policies that already exist which forbid them, these policies are selectively enforced.


May 31st, 2012
10:53 am

I have observed this, also.

And it isn’t due to the parents’ ABILITY to ensure responsible use/monitor. It is due to parental UNWILLINGNESS to monitor. A free babysitter? Then mom can do what SHE wants, without the kids in her hair.

Try Again

May 31st, 2012
11:21 am

“How many kids in India (who seem to be kicking tail and taking names) or China have access to Broadband? Funny but I would hazard to guess it is less than the US but they are the ones designing all the gadgets for the kids in this country to use.”

About 40 percent of Indians are illiterate, so I wouldn’t exactly say they’re kicking our tail. Furthermore, what technology has India or China given the world? All the gadgets are designed in the U.S. and manufactured by cheap Asian labor.

Inman Park Boy

May 31st, 2012
11:25 am

We have been sold a bill of goods by Microsoft and Apple. Yes, we have.


May 31st, 2012
11:37 am

As much as liberals would like to have every bad result in life officially attributed to “bias”… poor personal choices are indeed endemic among the lower economic classes.


May 31st, 2012
12:23 pm

If kids are wasting time on electronics, its because they are allowed to do so. My kids are not allowed to watch TV during the week. They have iPads that have a majority of educational apps on them and only a couple of games. Their time on the iPads is limited unless I have directed them to work on something specific. Bored? Read a book or go play (novel concept, I know). They are not old enough to have phones and neither my husband nor I have installed games on our phones to entice their use when we are away from home. Simply put, mom and dad have rules to prevent over exposure to technology.

I am not sure why there needs to be a huge study to understand how to keep kids from being over exposed to this stuff. The bottom line is that no one can MAKE parents limit technology, make education a priority in their homes, or address all the other education-related issues that are discussed on this blog.

I agree that this is a matter of accountability for the parents.

With regard to higher income kids spending less time on technology, it could be that they have more options because they are involved in extracurricular activities. Perhaps lower income kids are not overscheduled with music, sports, drama and other lessons so they have more down time to spend on the electronics.

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
12:43 pm

“As much as liberals would like to have every bad result in life officially attributed to “bias”… poor personal choices are indeed endemic among the lower economic classes”

Oh, but if it were that simple. Folks from all levels make poor personal choices. The rich have celebrity rehab and good lawyers to manage their bad choices.

HS Math Teacher

May 31st, 2012
1:33 pm

It’s amazing how some kids in poverty have all the bling, shoes, and hi-tech gadgetry. . . Mama usually has a nice ride, and a cell phone plastered to her ear. Now, I realize that sounds racist; however, it’s what I’ve observed over many of the past years.

Now, we have a headline like this, and it just reaffirms what us educated rednecks have been saying the whole time. From reading a few posts here, we have those who have tried to run a computer lab for benchmarks, standardized test prep, etc. and are having trouble with some kids who keep jumping back & forth between computer games and other junk sites on the net. I won’t mention the “profile” of these kids who do this.

What’s to be made of all this? Maybe it’s better to keep kids in poverty in an air conditioned, government apartment, playing on a computer instead of them getting bored and ripping off a few hubcaps?

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
1:46 pm

“some kids who keep jumping back & forth between computer games and other junk sites on the net. I won’t mention the “profile” of these kids who do this”

Why not? You’ve already used the tried and true negative stereotypes, so go ahead.

Actually, I’ve observed that my wealthier kids are no better or worse about distractions on the computer. I think sharkgirl explained it best above. With greater access to a variety of activites, these kids generally don’t have as much time for the electronics. In poorer homes (and I can assure you they don’t all have Ipads, Iphones, and high-speed internet), the computer, when available, does become a source of entertainment. I teach in a high poverty district, and less than half of my kids who qualify for free lunch have internet on their phones or in their houses. Their cell phones are prepaid, which means they get minutes when they can. The stereotypes just don’t always apply.

HS Math Teacher

May 31st, 2012
2:12 pm

I would Ron; however; as soon as someone does this, it’s like the air horns that go off at a SAC base when the B52 pilots have to quit playing pool and dash out to a vehicle that will take them off to flying destruction.

A Conservative Voice

May 31st, 2012
2:17 pm

Naw, what you do is this…….Make it clear on the first day of school that “Cell Phones” or similar devices are not to be used or even carried on school grounds. If, on the second or subsequent day cell phones are found on a student, that student will be expelled immediately for three days……period, and you make sure the parents understand this. Same with inappropriate use of school computers or computers brought from home. Zero tolerance, folks…….you have to be tough, that’s the only thing some of these kids understand…….our problem is, we are afraid of the student and what their parents might do or say. Back up what we say with what we said would happen.

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
2:19 pm

“it’s like the air horns that go off at a SAC base when the B52 pilots have to quit playing pool and dash out to a vehicle that will take them off to flying destruction”

LOL- Spoken like a veteran teacher (sure you didn’t teach English with the extended similes?)

After 20+ years, it’s easy to want to pigeon-hole kids with labels, but the more I challenge myself not to, the more I find the labels don’t always fit. It also helps me keep from becoming too cynical, which with all the added stress we have these days, is a necessity.

HS Math Teacher

May 31st, 2012
2:31 pm

Ron: To tell the truth, I do love some of those kids I was denegrating, but I find it a grind to see this persistent problem for 20-something years. As far as the extended similies…you got it… I’m not very strong at LA & grammar.


May 31st, 2012
3:01 pm

What gets me is that the low income parents purchase the large screen TV’s, xbox 360 with kniect and other gadgets (hand held and otherwise) and wonder why brad/biff, pablo and pookie can’t read…

(see i covered all the relevant races)

and when they get to school they are more interested in the games and computer activities than reading a book.

Parents you can monitor your child by setting time allotment of 1 hour to do all of that copute gaming AFTER….AFTER….AFTER the home work is done…and if they don’t have home work…then tell them to do the home work the completed all over again.. and here is a novel idea… SIT WITH THEM WHILE THEY DO THEIR HOMEWORK….
You migh learn something toooo……


May 31st, 2012
5:36 pm

Why do all of these children have cell phones!?!?

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
6:31 pm

“What gets me is that the low income parents purchase the large screen TV’s”

Not to be nitpicky, but do you have pictures, receipts, anything to prove that? I hear that a lot, but to be honest in the poor kids’ home I’ve visited in my district, there might have been a playstation or xbox, but no big screens or kinect (and I’ve been in some from every race in my district). I truly wish we could get past the stereotypes that categorize the poor as having all the “stuff” without any sense of responsibility. I spend my days teaching the kids of working and nonworking poor parents, and they definitely don’t have all the gadgets you mention. I’d really like to see us prove such statements before we present them as fact.


May 31st, 2012
7:09 pm

“Folks from all levels make poor personal choices. The rich have celebrity rehab and good lawyers to manage their bad choices.”

By rich we’re sure Ron F means all us conservatives. You know who you are … with your celebrity rehab and good lawyers constantly on hand to prevent you wasting too much time on the gadgets robbing other innocent victims of their productive time!

Jeez, Ron!

Ron F.

May 31st, 2012
9:35 pm

Gwinnett: I didn’t mention political affiliation. In point of fact, there are wealthy folks in every political group out there as well as poor folks. My point has nothing to do with politics- it is simply a statement of what I have observed in twenty-plus years of teaching and parenting. The poor don’t have the safety net that money and social status can often provide. I’ve seen it happen in my own school and community. While I enjoy a good debate, let’s keep it to the issues stated, please.

Peter Smagorinsky

June 1st, 2012
5:49 am

Thanks to Ron F. for keeping this ship stable and afloat.

Math & Tech teacher

June 1st, 2012
8:39 am

Of course these devices are a distraction if not controlled or regulated from the onset. My school system is also experimenting with BYT programs. There’s advantages for sure, but plenty of disadvantages. I have taught in computer labs for nearly a decade and its been my experience that students from ALL socioeconomic groups will go off task, and some will be verbally defiant about it. The degree of off task behavior is truly based upon the individual student’s work ethic and personal motivation for academic success. I truly do NOT see this as an economic concern, but one of modeling expectations by parents and local culture.

Rules for Success:
1. Zero Tolerance- No way, no how EVER EVER allow your student to get on a game, even when “finished” with assignment. If you do then you have opened the door to poor academic performance because the game is always more interesting to students than the assignment. For those who don’t understand this, it means the student will rush through and not do good work just to get to the perk.
2. Limit Access- Have appropriate sites that student is allowed to visit when appropriate. This includes electronic gradebook to verify graded and missing assignments, teacher websites, school district approved curriculum sites with 100% curriculum based activities, and teacher pre-screened sites that only have curriculum focus.
3. Verify, Verify, Verify and have Significant Consequences- The best of students will find a way to cheat around the rules if he/she wants to play. The temptation is too great for most students. The teacher MUST WALK THE ROOM! If student strays, then make an example and immediantly remove computer/technology privileges for a prescribed period of time. In that case, student must do work at the home or before/after school. Keep books around to read to give student something to do.

The greatest challenge is not the lab, but personal devices. I do not advocate for this polilcy and do not anticipate using that option in my classroom. There is just too much to go wrong by allowing a student to open a device that has capabilities of texting friends, AV recording in classroom, gaming, non-filterable cell phone non-school network access, and preloaded games. If it belongs to the student then I am not even allowed to touch it to verify what applications are actually running. I cannot effectively police it.

Bottom line is that the majority of students of today just do not have the maturity to use these personal technology devices appropriately when in class.