A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri and Saint Louis University found that African American parents in rural areas had a difficult time providing adequate education for their children during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Researchers interviewed a group of African American families in a rural midwestern town. They found that a majority of participants reported stresses from feelings of “sink or swim” in a digital world, without support from schools to effectively provide for their children’s technology needs. Although availability of the internet provided relief for many families in terms of adapting activities to engage children, it created two main challenges for low-income families, (a) fighting over limited electronic gadgets/devices such as access to phones, tablets, TV, and computers and (b) limited Wi-Fi connectivity.
“The pandemic exposed some of the disparities that existed and increased it,” said Adaobi Anakwe, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri and the lead author of the study. Dr. Anakwe holds a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University.
The researchers noted that “many parents (a) lacked the technical expertise with the technologies their children were using such as Zoom and in the material children were learning and (b) had no access to training and support from professionals. Some parents lacked dependable broadband/Wi-Fi. These factors contributed to parents’ stress as they were caught in between the desire to support their children and the reality of their limited technological knowhow, and socio-economic status to provide reliable internet.”
The authors concluded that their study “suggests that the U.S. needs to aggressively address the Black/White digital divide, especially to ensure equitable access to academic resources and opportunities for African American communities. In a rapidly digitalizing world, reduced access to these resources can have irreversible long-term consequences for academic, social, and health outcomes.”
The full study, “Sink or Swim: Virtual Life Challenges Among African American Families During COVID-19 Lockdown,” was published in the International Journal for Environmental Research and Public Health. It may be accessed here.