Adolescent Computer Use and Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

Computer usage patterns among teens, including use of the Internet, is increasingly being investigated. One area of interest for educators relates to the home use of the computer and the Internet by adolescents and its relationship to academic achievement. This is particularly relevant, as the amount of time that teens spend at home on the computer appears to be rising. This trend may have an impact on academic performance. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of home computer usage patterns to academic grades for tenth-grade students in three high schools in Ohio.

Trends in Computer and Internet Use

A study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (1993) revealed that, in 1989, 39% of all high school students used the computer in school. The rate of home usage by the same students was 20%, with 12% of the high school students using the computer at home for schoolwork.

A later report by the National Center for Education Statistics (1995) indicated computer usage changes over time. These statistics revealed an increase of computer usage at school for all students in the United States, with 27% of the students using the computer in 1984 increasing to 39% in 1989. By 1993, 58% of high school students used the computer at home. Twelve percent of the high school students participating in the research study in 1989 reported that they used the computer at home to study. That rate increased to 20.9% of the participants in 1993.

Hoffman, Kalsbeek, and Novak (1996) conducted a survey of Internet use among people 16 years of age and older in the United States in order to obtain a baseline in August 1995. They found that for people in the 16 to 24 age range, 22.1% were characterized as using the Internet and the World Wide Web at a high rate, while 15.5% did not use the Internet or the web at all. They also found a strong relationship between type of access, computer and modern ownership, length of time of computer use, and the segments of time on the Internet and web. Another finding was that women were more likely to use the Internet for e-mail, while men were more likely to download software and make purchases. Males also reported being more skilled than females at navigating the web.

Concern has been expressed regarding the demographic patterns of computer and Internet use as evidence supporting a growing "digital divide." Hoffman and Novak (1999) reviewed a number of studies on computer and Internet usage patterns over time in home computer ownership, Internet access, and usage between whites and African Americans in the United States, among males and females, and across income levels. The evidence suggested that although the gender gap in Internet usage patterns appears to be decreasing over time, the digital divide for race seems to be increasing. Further investigation indicated that increasing levels of income corresponded to an increased likelihood of owning a home computer, regardless of race, and the researchers concluded that "access translates into usage."

Patterns of Computer and Internet Use

There are four basic categories of Internet usage for adolescents (Suler, 1998). The first category is the Web site, which provides documents or collections of documents that can be read for informational purposes. E-mail, the second category, is a rapid form of electronic letter communication. The third category is chat rooms in which adolescents communicate with each other on the computer at the same time, typing messages to each other that scroll down the screen in real time. The fourth category, newsgroups, is like an electronic bulletin board.

The Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service Network (1999) provided a summary of their research on the status of technology in United States schools, which included information regarding computer usage patterns of students. They found that among eighth graders, playing games was the most prevalent computer use. …