What college student hasn’t had the experience of logging on a computer to write an essay and then pulling up Netflix (or Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site) instead? Suddenly an hour has gone by, and no work has been completed.
Access to computers is now considered to be a basic educational right, and students as young as elementary age who lack that access are considered to be at a significant disadvantage. President Obama considers it to be such an important issue that he promised his dedication to expanding internet access to students in the State of the Union Address on January last month.
But is increased access as important as it seems, or does it have hidden risks as well? Recent studies are presenting disturbing findings that far from increasing educational benefits, computer access is actually decreasing math and reading scores in elementary schoolers. For anyone who is currently a student, the connection is not hard to find. Computer access not only means access to educational materials and a vast pool of free information, but also to distractions in the form of social media, movie and video streaming, games, and online stores. Supervision of student’s activity on computers is often lacking, and the only factor deciding what the computers are used for is the student’s willpower (or lack of willpower).
The President’s dedication to expanding internet access is certainly admirable, but is it misplaced? We are in the unique point of history where the effects of wide-spread internet access are becoming measurable, and perhaps more research should be conducted before the government’s time and money is poured into a potentially detrimental project.