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Gradations of Disappearing Digital Divides Among Racially Diverse Middle School Students

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78350-629-3, eISBN: 978-1-78350-582-1

Publication date: 27 November 2014



In the first decades of ICT adoption, Whites traditionally had higher levels of Internet access and usage. We examine whether race remains a factor in Internet usage, among a group presumed to be digital natives – middle school students.


A survey was administered to a racially/ethnically diverse sample of students in a mid-Atlantic school district including White, Hispanic, African American, and Asian/Pacific Islander. The survey sought to measure time spent engaged in varying Internet activities and related sociodemographic factors.


The analyses indicate that Whites do not have higher levels of Internet usage, and in many cases racial minority youth are more engaged in Internet activities than Whites. This holds true when accounting for a number of sociodemographic and background factors that are known to affect Internet usage.

Research implications

This chapter adds to the evidence that within the United States the digital divide has become more about the “other dimensions” such as how the Internet is used, rather than merely access or ownership (e.g., first level digital divide issues) at the middle school level.


This chapter will be beneficial to researchers who study the digital divide and those who seek to understand the myriad uses of computers among youth. It will also be beneficial for those who seek to integrate computer interventions in schools. This study includes one of the most diverse samples of middle school students in the United States. The results suggest that there are multiple dimensions to the digital divide and that patterns of use are changing among middle school youth.




This work was funded by a National Science Foundation Grant (#0429084; Shelia R. Cotten (PI)). The opinions expressed in this manuscript reflect those of the authors and not the National Science Foundation.


Cotten, S.R., Davison, E.L., Shank, D.B. and Ward, B.W. (2014), "Gradations of Disappearing Digital Divides Among Racially Diverse Middle School Students", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 25-54.



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