Headlines: December 1st, 1999

The introduction of IT into schools and some homes is opening up new social exclusions, according to fresh research.Uneven patterns of access to, and use of, computer equipment in schools and at home means that some children have more opportunities to develop IT skills than others, according to research sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council.

As IT skills become increasingly important, those children without them will be marginalised in the labour market and less able to fully participate in other aspects of civil and social life.

The report’s authors say the potential implications of this marginalisation is a more pressing concern than fears about the availability of porn on-line.

A recommendation from the researchers’ report is that Government efforts to promote social inclusion must not focus on the provision of computer equipment alone, but that efforts must be made to attract to computers those children who do not have positive attitudes towards IT.

It points out that girls can be encouraged to e-mail their way into the predominantly male computer culture, whereas disaffected boys can be encouraged to participate in school work by allowing them to surf the net.

‘Cyberkids: children’s social networks, ‘virtual communities’, and online spaces’ follows a two-year project based at the Universities of Sheffield and Loughborough.