Access to Technology Builds More than Computer Skills
|January 9, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Program Model, Research, Technology, Youth Development||
Research on the racial digital divide, or the difference in access to computers and/or Internet connectivity between White and non-White young people, gave rise to the creation of Community Technology Centers (CTC), places where youth without access to technology could learn and practice such skills. Data from a 2009 Pew research study suggested that the expansion of handheld wireless devices for communication and connectivity did much to shrink the disparity, though others point out that such devices only have a limited impact. However, researchers studying the linkages between CTCs and the relationship that CTC participants had with technology found that CTCs had a greater impact on youth development than merely boosting technological knowledge.
The report, The Role of Community Technology Centers in Promoting Youth Development, in the December 2010 edition of Youth and Society suggests that CTCs not only serve as a key access point to technology for youth in disadvantaged areas but also encourage (and result in) positive outcomes outside the realm of technological skill-building, including:
- building social capital – relationship-building and strengthening or creating networks with peers as well as adults in the larger community;
- giving youth a voice – telling their own story through written and visual digital methods; and
- encouraging and facilitating engagement both inside the community and with the outside world.
These findings serve to remind me that access to technology for youth (and really, everyone) is not merely about games, cool apps and other bells and whistles, but about the sharing of information, bridging gaps, and widening networks. It is easy to opine that technology merely strengthens relationships that were initiated “the old fashioned way” – through face-to-face meetings – but if you locked up your wireless devices and desktop(s) for a month, while continuing the rest of your daily routine, what would be your experience around social capital, story-telling and/or level of engagement? Would losing your access to computers or the Internet result in an overall loss, gain, or no change?
London,Rebecca A., Manuel Pastor, Jr., Lisa J. Servon, Rachel Rosner and Antwuan Wallace. The Role of Community Technology Centers in Promoting Youth Development, in Youth and Society. Youth Society December 2010 vol. 42 no. 2 199-228.
Originally published online 23 November 2009. The online version of this article can be found at:DOI: 10.1177/0044118X09351278