Saturday, September 14, 2013

Digital Divide through the Eyes of a Microsystem Part II

In order to understand how the digital divide affects client populations I will focus on the most technologically integrated clients, teenagers. The microsystem of the teenager consists of their relationships with parents, peers, teachers, and people in their extracurricular activities. These relationships have the most influence on teenagers’ behavior utilizing technology. There are two aspects of digital divide to consider when addressing this population, access and lack of technological education by the relationships in their microsystem.

Access is the first aspect of an expanding area in the digital divide of adolescents. Twenty years ago a lack of access meant no Internet. Today, access has developed to include technological hardware and software connecting people to the world. An average teenager uses a computer, cell phone, and game systems. Pew statistics report “93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home, 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones and 86% use game systems.” I understand, 7% doesn’t seem like a lot of digital divide, but considering this equals 1,505,980 of teens between the ages of 15-18, we may take a second look. Teenagers without access to digital tools at home and with friends run the risk of falling behind in social interactions and dropping out of high school due to inadequate technology access and utilization (Ernst & Moye, 2013). If these students fall behind in understanding digital tools their motivation to progress in school is diminished (Murray, 2011). Adolescents without technology access will be less prepared than their counterparts to succeed in school or the workplace leaving them economically disadvantaged.

Teen 'Sexting'

The second aspect of the digital divide to consider is risk associated with ignorance of digital tools on the behavior of adolescents. The risk of the digital divide is the lack of understanding and connection to adolescents by their parents and other significant mentors.  Bullying, communication problems with friends, cyber hacking, cheating at school, and inappropriate sexual behaviors are all areas where some parents lack awareness. The digital divide between parents and their adolescents can lead to significant consequences. Bulling online can lead to depression or suicide. Predators can direct unsuspecting teenagers to high risk sexual behaviors increasing their exposure to inappropriate expression of their vulnerable and emerging sexuality.  A McAfee (2012) study stated “29% of parents feel overwhelmed by technology and hoping for the best when it comes to their kids online.” Family connection is another aspect of the digital divide. Turkle (2011) discusses the risks inherent in social media to the stability of the family unit. The divide in understanding digital technologies between teenagers and their parents can increase or decrease family connection (Padilla-Walker, Coyne, & Fraser, 2012). Without further study and education, families may have significant risk of unwanted effects on their teenager in a digitally divided world.


Ernst, J. V., & Moye, J. J. (2013). Social Adjustment of At-Risk Technology Education Students. Journal Of Technology Education, 24(2), 2-13.

Hongwei, Y. (2013). Young American Consumers' Online Privacy Concerns, Trust, Risk, Social Media Use, and Regulatory Support. Journal Of New Communications Research, 5(1), 1-30.

McAfee. (2012, June). The digital divide: How the online behavior of teens is getting past parents. Retrieved from

Murray, A. (2011). Montessori Elementary Philosophy Reflects Currents Motivation Theories.
Montessori Life, 23(1), 22–33.

Padilla-Walker, L. M., Coyne, S. M., & Fraser, A. M. (2012). Getting a High-Speed Family Connection: Associations between Family Media Use and Family Connection. Family Relations, 61(3), 426-440.
Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together. New York: Basic Books

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Understanding the Digital Divide through Systems Theory - Part I

           How do we define the digital divide with marginalized or vulnerable populations? Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) systems theory can elaborate on the interplay a digital divide has on individuals and systems as they interact. I believe digital divide is a term needing more definition. Systems theory can illuminate issues the digital divide has throughout human development. The next series of posts are to be focused upon the explanation of digital divide and its relation to the subsystems of micro, meso, exo, macro, and chrono in social work practice. I expanded on the systems classification to include a broad definition of how each area may be impacted digitally.  

Areas of Potential Digital Divide
age, sex, health, mental health, socioeconomic status, culture
Access and /or knowledge or digital tools (computer, tablet, smart phone), software, apps, game systems, digital footprint, technological innovations applicable to life skills
School, parenting, extracurricular activities, social media,  health services, gaming
Caregivers/parents use of technology, social, economic or political systems, school digital integration, community resources integration of technology, electronic medical records, peers tech literacy, big data
Cultural, socioeconomic, political, spiritual, and sexual influence of attitudes/values toward technological resources and tools, laws or digital resource rules governing technological uses, business media, big data
Timing of introduction to digital tools, generational differences regarding introduction of technology, effects of crisis related to positive and negative technology impact, effects of the rapid progression of technological advances

The first system to be discussed is the microsystem. Feel free to debate how you see the digital divide occurring with your populations.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. International Encyclopedia of Education, 3(2),