Latino Families and Technology Use

As readers of the Fred Rogers Center blog recognize through their daily interactions with kids and their families around the country, nearly a quarter of all children under the age of five years old today are Latino. And according to population projections, this number is set to increase exponentially— Hispanic-Latino families are among the fastest growing groups in the United States.*young_gamer_300-300x451

At the National Center for Family Literacy and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, we are interested in studying the way families interact and learn with digital media. We see that technology—as pervasive as it is—has incredible potential to entertain and educate, and to bring generations together through easier communication and play.

In recent years, national surveys have suggested that while Americans of Hispanic-Latino descent are among the highest media consumers, their adoption of digital technologies varies widely by age, education, and income level. Not too surprisingly, low-income families face difficult choices about allocating limited financial resources. And those in recently immigrated, Spanish-dominant households are less likely to have easy access to devices like smart phones, computers, and tablets—although these gaps are slowly closing. Early research evidence from studies by the Cooney Center and others suggest, too, that attitudes towards educational priorities and family communications are shifting as the digital age hits home. Can we help ensure that students and their families are empowered by the media on these devices?

Last year, we gathered some of the leading researchers, policy makers, and educators to take a closer look at the ways Hispanic-Latino families are making the most of new technologies. Part of our goal was to think about how to help these families take even better advantage of digital media to help improve the academic performance of Hispanic-Latino students. At the end of the day, we agreed that the conversations had been so provocative and inspiring that we decided to formalize a working group called the Aprendiendo Juntos (Learning Together) Council. The  goal is to identify models and practical strategies to improve educational outcomes for  Hispanic-Latino families through digital media. Members of the Council include researchers from Rutgers, Northwestern, the University of Texas at Austin, Florida State, and Vanderbilt.

This summer, the Council will support innovative field studies directed by Vikki Katz of Rutgers University examining the roll-out of the national Connect2Compete broadband equity initiative in select districts of California and Arizona. The Council will also conduct a special analysis of a national survey conducted by Ellen Wartella of Northwestern University on media usage by Latino parents and their children ages 0 to10, to be released later this year.

Together, we aim to better understand the media landscape that affects and influences families of this incredibly diverse population, which hails from many countries and represents an infinite array of personal and political experiences. By talking to and working with Hispanic-Latino families, we hope to gain an even stronger sense of the cultural values that inform their decisions, and to help to shape and inform policies and social programs that will be beneficial to these communities.

*Hispanic-Latino is language specific to the Aprendiendo Juntos Council’s work.

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