An article in MarketWatch titled: Rich kids use the Internet to get ahead, and poor kids use it ‘mindlessly’ is about Robert Putnam’s new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” The link to this article was forwarded to me today by my oldest son.
Reading the MarketWatch piece made me want to learn more so I googled the book title and continued to read. Putnam feels that the gap between the rich and poor kids in the U.S. has grown significantly since the 1950s. He writes that, … “the socioeconomic barriers in America in the 1950’s were at their lowest ebb in more than a century: economic and educational expansion was high; income equality was relatively high; class segregation in neighborhoods and schools low; class barriers to intermarriage and social intercourse were low; civic engagement and social solidarity were high, and opportunities for kids born in the lower echelon to scale the socioeconomic ladder were abundant.” Wow, really? I was born in the 50’s and never would have thought this when I was growing up. I thought the 70’s and early 80’s were more progressive.
From what I gleaned from a quick once over on the Amazon site, Putnam was part of a research team funded by some heavy hitters, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford, to name just a few. He took on this project more than a decade ago after a student of his had written her senior thesis based on her observations of the differences between how social interaction in her high school and her college campus differed. Putnam is a Professor at Harvard.
According to MarketWatch, Putman said in an interview that most kids have access to smartphones but the poorest ones tended to use the devices “in completely different, mindless ways,” He went on to say, … “for all the wealth generated in the name by making information free, the Internet has done little to improve the prospects of poor kids growing up in America.”
Didn’t we already have an inkling about the gap growing wider? Kids may have equal access to the Internet, but yes, they do use it in different ways. The kids from the middle and upper echelons have more appropriate role models and have learned to use the Internet in what Putnam calls a “mobility-enhancing way,” such as doing research for an essay or comparing colleges. Poor kids tend to use the Internet for entertainment and in a more casual way. My question, what are we going to do about this disparity?