25 January 2019

Research pick: Online safety across the digital divide - "The digital divide: implications for the eSafety of children and adolescents"

“The digital divide is the gap between those who are digitally literate and those who are not, between those who do and do not have access to digital environments.” So begins a paper in the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning from Gila Cohen Zilka of the Department for Teaching Social Science and Communication, at Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel. She has now investigated the implications of the digital divide for the “online” safety of children and adolescents.

Cohen Zilka studied three hundred forty-five Israeli children and adolescents who participated in her mixed-method study. Fundamentally, the research found that youngsters who have digital equipment at home displayed higher eSafety skills and computer literacy than did children who have no digital equipment or those who have only a few such devices, as one might perhaps expect. A lack of access to information and communications technology (ICT) results in a lack of or limited skills in this critical area of modern life. One result is that those youngsters on the wrong side of the digital divide are at greater risk of cyberbullying and other problems, online hazards and the problem of predatory adults, than the more computer literate with better access to ICT at home.

She concludes on the basis of her research, that it would be desirable for children and adolescents who are part of a disadvantaged population in terms of access to ICT to be encouraged and educated and given greater access to computer time and eSafety skills in school or in public digital environments. The work corroborates the earlier research of others that those youngsters that are especially vulnerable to internet risks are often those whose families have financial difficulties, are part of a minority or immigrant group, are in poverty, have disabilities, or have simply moved from one educational setting to another.

Zilka, G.C. (2019) ‘The digital divide: implications for the eSafety of children and adolescents’, Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.20–35.

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