Mobile Internet access still no substitute for landline connection

A new study details an important point about digital equality: mobile Internet access is no substitute for a landline connection. A new study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is a “nationally-representative telephone survey of lower-income parents on issues related to digital connectivity,” surveying only parents with household incomes below the national media for families with children.

The study finds that most low- and moderate-income families have some form of Internet connection, but many are under-connected, with mobile-only access and inconsistent connectivity. For example, a third (33 percent) of families below the poverty line rely on mobile-only Internet access, which, of course, isn’t a substitute for a landline connection. Among that third, three in ten (29 percent) say they have exceeded their plan’s data limits in the past year and two in ten (21 percent) say family members don’t get the connected time they need because too many people share the same device.

Additional key findings include:

  • Families headed by Hispanic immigrants are less connected than other low- and moderate-income families.

  • The main reason some families do not have home computers or Internet access is because they cannot afford it, but discounted Internet programs are reaching very few.

  • Low- and moderate-income parents use the Internet for a broad range of purposes, but mobile-only families are less likely to do certain online activities.

  • Children from low- and moderate-income families use computers and the Internet for a variety of educational activities, but those without home access are less likely to go online to pursue their interests.

  • Parents feel largely positive about the Internet and digital technology, but many also have concerns.

  • Children and parents frequently learn with, and about, technology together, especially in families with the lowest incomes and where parents have less education.

Read the full study here.

Opportunity for all? Technology and learning in lower-income families (Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Winter 2016)