A New Digital Divide?

Could wealthier children get a new advantage — a childhood free of technology?

George Dillard
6 min readJun 4, 2024
Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

Remember that period 10 or 15 years ago when digital technology seemed like it was going to make the world a better place? When we thought that social media would be a tool for connection and community rather than manipulation and alienation? When we regarded our digital devices as tools for productivity rather than distraction? When we understood the smartphones in our pockets as a magical tool rather than an unavoidable burden?

Back in those days, there was a lot of handwringing about “the digital divide” — the idea that kids (and schools) who had access to computers and the internet would have an immense advantage over those who didn’t. It seemed that wealthier kids, who were more likely to have connected devices in their schools and at home, would be much better off intellectually than their less-affluent peers.

As an educator, I also remember the relentless hype with which the tech industry — and the coterie of “experts” and professional-development speakers that attach themselves to it — bombarded us. These forces promoted educational technology as an irresistible force for good. Just equip your students with this device or have them download this app, and watch the learning take place! The students have a smartphone in…