Livingstone and Bober (2005) note that “In a survey of 6-17 year olds conducted just a few years ago in 1997, only one in five had used the internet, and another one in five had not even heard of it. Even among those who had, their understanding was limited.” In a study conducted by Yang and Nathanson (2004), it was found that “On average, children reported using the Internet at school two days a week and three days a week at home.”
By 2005 Livingston and Bober noted that “In many industrialized nations, the internet is no longer solely a resource for privileged early adopters and is now becoming widely available in the mass market, although significant social inequalities in access remain.” (Livingstone and Bober, 2005) It is important to mention that there are still children who do not have access to the internet at home and must rely on their school’s access for exposure to, and instruction in, using computer-generated media. (For further information and the latest demographics, please refer to Home Computer Access and Internet Use provided by the Child Trends Databank). “The consequence of … technological diffusion is that the internet is being taken for granted in our lives, and is seen as integral to our daily routines and central to our visions of a good school, an active community, a comfortable home,” (Livingstone and Bober, 2005) thus putting children with limited exposure at a significant disadvantage.
Livingstone and Bober found that “it seems that children often prefer to learn how to use the internet informally by playing around with the medium and working things out for themselves.” (Livingstone and Bober, 2005) Children with computers in the home are more likely to play on them than when being instructed in the classroom. Still, “…the school does have some role to play (in helping children learn how to use the internet) …” (Livingstone and Bober, 2005)
The most fundamental aspect of media literacy is access. For elementary age children to become competent in analyzing, evaluating, and communicating information obtained on-line, they must first have a means of going on-line. A report released by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania in September/October 2009 looked at the physical availability of technology in both rural and urban schools (see telecommunications) within this state. The results were encouraging … noting equal availability to all Pennsylvania students (pretty typical of all US states).
Even with this physical availability of computers and internet access, it is necessary for schools to include curriculum that encourages the use thereof. One large initiative by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to promote classroom usage is described in “Pennsylvania Department of Education Partners with WPSU and PBS to Bring Media From the Digital Learning Library to Classrooms Statewide” . Such focus on internet use within classrooms, strengthened by the physical presence of internet connections and computers, is a solid step forward in assuring that all PA elementary-age children possess the first hallmark of media literacy — access.
Livingstone, S., & Bober, M. (2005). Taking Up Online Opportunities? Children’s Uses of the Internet For Education, Communication and Participation. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-34. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Yang, M., Eastin, M., & Nathanson, A. (2004). Quiet Riot: How do children access and see the noise as Internet literacy?. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.