Overview of This Report

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have reached an unprecedented level of acceptance in the American home and workplace. Almost half 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. By Fall 2000, almost every public school in America had Internet access, up from 35 percent in 1994. At least half of the U.S. workforce now uses computers regularly on the job.

What are the social impacts of this broad, deep adoption of ICTs? We were contracted to research this issue for the Kellogg Foundation. Our goal was to provide Kellogg program staff with perspectives and information potentially helpful in considering project proposals involving ICTs. Between May and August 2001, we surveyed the major literatures on the social, psychological, educational, and health effects of ICTs. We also interviewed a variety of experts in this field.

The benefits of ICTs are widely known and accepted. Therefore, our purpose in this project was chiefly to investigate the possible "downsides" of new ICTs. We focused on issues relevant to Kellogg's major areas of interest: education, childhood development, and organizations such as schools, community groups, and international aid agencies. Our report contains four sections:

  1. Executive Summary: reviews the literature and draws some conclusions of possible relevance to Kellogg's work.
  2. Annotated bibliography: summarizes over fifty books, articles, and websites.
  3. Transcripts of eight interviews with experts in a variety of related fields.
  4. Complete bibliography: categorizes over 290 books, articles, and websites.

We concluded that ICTs may produce a great variety of negative effects on all levels, from human health and children's psychological development to long-term, diffuse impacts on society as a whole. Four general conclusions follow from our findings:

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