Hispanic Families See Benefits in Educational Media But Have Uneven Access to Digital Opportunities

February 18, 2015

Joan Ganz Cooney Center Study Examines Parents’ Perceptions of Media and Releases Report Recommending Actions to Attain Digital Equity

 New York, NY, February 18, 2015 – Hispanic families are utilizing some digital tools at rates that rival their middle class white peers, but have fewer opportunities to tap into educational content that could advance children’s early growth and long-term achievement, according to findings from new publications released today by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

The results of a new national survey, reported in Aprendiendo en casa: Media as a Resource for Learning Among Hispanic-Latino Families, indicate that there are significant gaps in access to computing devices and high speed Internet for children raised in English-only, bilingual and Spanish-speaking families. Families that speak primarily Spanish and which had the lowest incomes were least likely to have home Internet access or own computers, tablets, and e-readers. They were also least likely to say that their children access educational content through these technologies.

Parents of children who use educational media on a weekly basis reported that this exposure supported their child’s learning, particularly in literacy and mathematics. Television remains the most common platform Hispanic families use to access educational content. More than 90 percent of Spanish speaking families expressed a desire to have more resources that can help them find high quality websites, games and television shows that can help support their children’s learning.

Aprendiendo en casa, by June Lee of Sesame Workshop and Brigid Barron of Stanford University, is based on findings from a survey that was conducted in English and Spanish with a nationally representative group of 682 Hispanic parents of children ages 2-10. The findings were derived from an analysis of the Hispanic subsample of parents that participated in a survey summarized in the Cooney Center’s Learning at Home report that was released in 2014.

 Though adoption rates have increased, there is a wide spectrum of access and availability marked by age and language. Connecting to Learn: Promoting Digital Equity for America’s Hispanic Families explores the new divide in digital opportunities and how it can be improved for low-income Hispanic families in the U.S. Featuring another new study conducted in Arizona, Colorado and California with low-income Mexican-heritage families, the report considers factors at the family, school and community level that affect adoption rates and the success of national digital equity initiatives.

Written by Vikki Katz of Rutgers University and Michael H. Levine of the Cooney Center, the authors outline five recommendations to policymakers and education leaders to help build digital connections and engage Hispanic families. Recommendations discussed include proposals for making families and community organizations partners for improving digital access for low-income children and parents, focusing on a modern mission for public service media particularly toward Hispanic audiences and updating teacher training to encourage more early childhood educators to use media to address the needs of diverse student populations.

“While Hispanic families are early adopters of technologies in the U.S., our research indicates that we are missing a key opportunity to tap the educational value of the new, more interactive media,” said Michael Levine, executive director of the Cooney Center. “These reports document an urgent need for a more culturally inclusive approach to designing media for our country’s diverse children and families.”

The Cooney Center and the University of California, Berkeley also released today an analysis of digital media in the lives of Latino families written by Bruce Fuller, José Ramon Lizárraga and James H. Gray. Digital Media and Latino Families: New Channels for Learning, Parenting and Local Organizing examines how digital media plays a role in Latino families and the possible social implications it can have on family dynamics.

The three publications are projects of the Aprendiendo Juntos (Learning Together) Council and the Families and Media Project. Aprendiendo en casa and Connecting to Learn were supported by the Bezos Family Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, AARP and LIFE, a Science of Learning Center funded by the National Science Foundation. Digital Media and Latino Families: New Channels for Learning, Parenting and Local Organizing was supported by the Latino Policy Forum and Education Writers Association New Journalism on Latino Children.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center investigates the potential of digital media to help children learn, and collaborates with educators, media producers, policymakers and investors to put this research into action. An independent nonprofit organization, the Center addresses issues of digital equity and aims to strengthen connections between formal and informal learning environments. Learn more at www.joanganzcooneycenter.org.

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