The term “digital divide” began surrounding the issue of access to technology resources. The digital divide was considered to be the gap between the people who had access to the internet and the people who didn’t. Through past studies, it was deemed that African Americans were the group who didn’t.
Today, that definition seems contradictory to what various studies are indicating. Over the past few months, numerous studies have be released indicating African Americans are engaging in various forms of the media more than other racial groups.
From Twitter to YouTube, reports are saying that it is in fact African Americans who are more likely to use these social networks and other types of media. So now it is not so much a question of access, but how African Americans are engaging these technologies.
Not to say African Americans have conquered all accessibility issues as it pertains to technology, but it’s fair to say this community has made tremendous progress. People who once didn’t even have access to the internet are now using all aspects of it and through mobile as well. But now, there are many new internet users who may lack the digital literacy they need to be successful in using these new tools.
The conversation needs to switch gears to digital literacy and regulation. There is still work to be done, and if that still needs to be labeled “digital divide,” then so be it. But it is important to recognize what the current issues are.
There are various ways to contribute to the advancing of digital literacy as many have already done; through programs, organizations, schools, and the home, especially when it comes to children. For instance, some people were actually outraged when a study from Northwestern University was released reporting how many hours of television African American children were consuming.
This is why self regulation also needs to be a part of the conversation. Parents have to take responsibility for what they are allowing their children to consume. As well as adults need to be responsible for them selves in knowing how much is too much. These issues start in the home, people have to set rules and regulations for themselves, but having the knowledge of how to effectively utilize the media may help in deciding that.
The different subjects that can be discussed concerning digital literacy could go on for days. But speaking in general, education is a big part of this digital society we live in; it’s not all about the access. It’s just like anything else, what use is a car if you don’t know how to drive. If the conversation is about the digital divide and African Americans, let’s acknowledge what has been accomplished. It’s not a matter of eliminating access from the conversation, but in addition, we need to start talking about what’s next; learning how to properly engage in the internet and other forms of media.