Children growing up in the United States today are more ethnically and racially diverse than at any time in the nation’s history. Because of rising income inequality, almost half of the 72 million children in the United States are also growing up in low-income families, with immigrant and children of color disproportionately likely to be within their ranks. Children in low-income households are more likely to face a number of social challenges, including constrained access to the Internet and devices that connect to it (ie, digital inequality), which can exacerbate other, more entrenched disparities between them and their more privileged counterparts. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new guidelines encourage clinicians to reduce children’s overexposure to technology, we argue for a more nuanced approach that also considers how digital inequality can reduce low-income children’s access to a range of social opportunities. We review previous research on how digital inequality affects children’s learning and development and identify areas where more research is needed on how digital inequality relates to specific aspects of children’s developmental trajectories, and to identify what interventions at the family, school, and community levels can mitigate the adverse effects of digital inequality as children move through their formal schooling. On the basis of the evidence to date, we conclude with guidelines for clinicians related to supporting digital connectivity and more equitable access to social opportunity for the increasingly diverse population of children growing up in the United States.
- Accepted April 19, 2017.
- Copyright © 2017 by the American Academy of Pediatrics