Executive Summary

Using this report: Footnotes refer the reader to items summarized in the Annotated Bibliography, or to our interview reports. Further information sources are listed by category in the Complete Bibliography at the end of this document.


For the first year. . . more families have an Internet subscription (52 percent) than a newspaper subscription (42 percent).1

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have reached an unprecedented level of acceptance in the American home and workplace.

Almost half (48 percent) of all families with children between the ages of 2 and 17 own all four of the ICT staples: television, VCR, video game equipment, and computer.2 Not only have these media penetrated the home; they are also becoming increasingly prevalent in the bedrooms of American children, with a majority of American teenagers (60 percent) having televisions in their rooms.3 According to parents, children spend almost six hours using media4 each day. Four of these hours are spent in front of an electronic display screen of some sort. Notably, even with greater infiltration of other media, TV viewing habits have remained remarkably stable. In other words, new ICTs have added to the older forms of media exposure, not displaced them.

ICT penetration is not limited to the home. By the fall of 2000, almost every public school in America (98 percent) had Internet access, up from 35 percent in 1994. In 1994, Internet access was provided to only 3 percent of instructional rooms.5 In 2000, that figure had risen to 77 percent. By 2000, U.S. public schools had one computer for every five students. As of 1997, half of the U.S. work force (50 percent) were using computers regularly on the job. This figure, like almost all those mentioned here, is on the rise.

Worries about such issues as computer-related "information overload" and the effects of television on children are widely shared. But these generalized concerns have had little effect on the broad, deep adoption of ICTs described above. Though some commentators have expressed reservations, most assessments of ICTs in both the popular media and scholarly research have been generally positive.

  1. Woodard and Gridina, 2000.
  2. Statistical references derived from Woodard and Gridina, 2000; Cattagni and Farris, 2001; and United States Census Bureau, 1999.
  3. Television, 57 percent; video games, 39 percent; basic cable, 36 percent; telephone 32 percent; VCR, 30 percent; computer, 20 percent; Internet 11 percent.
  4. "Media," in this case, includes both electronic sources (e.g. TV, radio, the Internet) and non-electronic sources (e.g. newspapers, magazines, books).
  5. "Instructional rooms" include classrooms, computer labs, and libraries, i.e. any room in which instructional activities occur.

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