A new Tufts University study sees the emergence of a "digital skills divide" based on socioeconomic status.
The study, published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, finds that wealthy, educated Americans are more capable of identifying untrustworthy information about child-rearing on the Internet than poor, uneducated Americans.
Fred Rothbaum, a professor in the department of child development at Tufts University, and colleagues conducted interviews of 60 mothers and 60 fathers from low, middle, and high socioeconomic strata, as measured by education and income, about Web use and online information.
Rothbaum said that the research was conducted four years ago and is only now being published because of the time it has taken to analyze the study.
After answering questions about how they used the Web, parents were asked to search for information on a specific topic and then asked how confident they were that the information found was trustworthy.
While confidence levels did not vary by socioeconomic status, the justifications provided about why specific information was trustworthy did. Among parents in the high socioeconomic group, 40% said they were more likely to trust Web sites affiliated with credible organizations, like universities or research entities. Only 26% of parents in the middle socioeconomic group and 16% of parents in the low socioeconomic group expressed similar confidence in credible organizations.
The Tufts researchers conclude in the study that low social-economic status parents "are more likely to obtain information from dubious Web sites that fail to provide research-based information."
The study also indicates that wealthy, educated parents are more likely to choose their own search engine, rather than accept the default search engine on their computer. Among that group, 55% preferred Google, compared with 28% in the middle socioeconomic status group and 8% in the low socioeconomic status group.