Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. EA 3.5 Student Computer Use

01/01/2000

Computer literacy has become increasingly important for success in the workplace. Computers have become an essential tool for retrieving and manipulating information, for producing reports, and for communicating with colleagues. The extent to which children have access to computers, and the uses children make of computers, may be an indicator of how well prepared students will be to enter an increasingly technological workplace.

Tables EA 3.5.A and EA 3.5.B present data on the frequency of computer use by children at school and at home. A review of these tables reveals the following general trends:

  • The percentage of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders who reported using a computer for schoolwork 1-2 times a week increased substantially between 1992 and 1998 (see Table EA 3.5.A). For example, 14 percent of 12th graders reported using a computer at school 1-2 times a week in 1992, compared with 28 percent in 1998.

Differences by Grade. Computer usage for schoolwork appears to increase as students enter the higher grades. For example, in 1998, 8 percent of 4th graders reported using a computer every day for schoolwork, while 21 percent of 12th graders reported the same.

Differences by Family Income.54 Data from the Current Population Survey indicate that students from high-income families were more likely than students from middle- and low-income families to report using a computer at home or at school (see Table EA 3.5.B).
However, family income appears to have a stronger impact on children’s exposure to computers at home than at school. For example, in 1997, the rate of computer usage at home was 15 percent for students in grades 7-12 from low-income families, compared with 79 percent for students from high-income families in the same grades. The corresponding computer usage rates at school were 68 percent and 75 percent for students in grades 7-12 from low-income and high-income families, respectively (see Table EA 3.5.B).

 

54 Low income is the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes; high income is the top 20 percent of all family incomes; and middle income is the 60 percent in between.

 

Table EA 3.5.A Percentage of students who reported using a computer for schoolwork, by grade and frequency of use: Selected years, 1992-1998

  Grade 4  Grade 8 Grade 12
  1992 1994 1996 1992 1994 1996 1992 1994 1996
Frequency of use
Never 67 60 54 58 51 32 45 37 22
Ever 33 40 46 42 49 68 55 63 78
1–2 times a week 17 21 20 14 16 25 14 18 28
1–2 times a month 10 11 18 20 23 29 22 26 30
Every day 6 9 8 8 10 15 18 18 21

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress. 1988. Almanac: Writing, 1984 to 1996. As published in The Condition of Education 1998, p. 38. Some tabulations performed by Child Trends.

 

Table EA 3.5.B Percentage of students who reported using a computer at school or at home, by grade level and family income: October 1984, 1989, 1993,a and 1997

  Total Low Middle High
Location of Computer 1984 1989 1993 1997 1984 1989 1993 1997 1984 1989 1993 1997 1984 1989 1993 1997
Grades 1-6
At home 11.8 16.1 23.0 41.3 2.5 3.2 3.9 12.4 9.7 13.1 18.0 36.4 24.4 33.6 48.5 74.6
At school 30.5 52.4 66.6 79.1 18.5 39.4 57.4 70.9 29.5 52.3 66.2 78.6 42.2 62.5 74.0 86.5
At school or home 36.2 56.9 70.7 83.8 20.0 40.5 58.1 71.9 34.5 56.3 69.5 82.8 53.0 70.9 82.4 95.0
Grades 7-12
At home 13.4 21.1 27.7 49.2 3.3 5.7 5.6 14.9 10.1 17.0 22.2 44.2 24.8 38.3 51.2 78.6
At school 28.9 43.0 57.0 73.5 20.0 36.7 49.0 67.6 28.4 42.6 57.3 74.1 34.1 47.2 60.7 75.4
At school or home 36.2 52.1 65.6 84.3 22.2 39.0 50.4 70.7 33.6 49.9 64.1 83.5 48.1 63.9 77.0 93.3

a Data for 1984, 1989, and 1993 are revised from previously published figures.
Note: Low income is the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes; high income is the top 20 percent of all family incomes; and middle income is the 60 percent in between.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress. 1998. Almanac: Writing, 1984 to 1996. As published in The Condition of Education 1998, p. 38.

 

Figure EA 3.5.A Percentage of students who reported using a computer for schoolwork 1-2 times a week, by grade level: Selected years, 1992-1998

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational
Progress. Almanac: Writing, 1998. As published in The Condition of Education 1998, p. 38. Some tabulations performed by
Child Trends.

 

Figure EA 3.5.B Percentage of students in grades 7-12 who reported using a computer at home, by family income: a 1984, 1989, 1993, and 1997

a Low income is the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes; high income is the top 20 percent of all family incomes; and middle income is the 60 percent in between.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, October Current Population Surveys (CPS). As published in The Condition of Education 1998, Table 3-1.

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