Does Technology Empower Urban Youth? The Relationship of Technology Use to Self-Efficacy


Many propose technology as a tool for empowerment of lower SES urban students, but little research has investigated the relationship between technology and empowerment for this population. We investigate how different aspects of technology use and ownership could empower urban youth through increasing their self-efficacy. Instead of simply a general measure of self-efficacy, we focus on several important domains related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects including technological, mathematics/science, academic, and general self-efficacy. Our investigation incorporates many aspects of technology use by considering first level digital divide characteristics, such as ownership and total amount of use, and second level digital divide characteristics, such as specific communication, multimedia, content creation, and social networking activities. We use a unique survey of fourth and fifth grade students who were given a laptop, thereby controlling for the typical disparity in computer ownership and access among lower SES students. We found that technology use influences each domain of efficacy in specific ways, indicating the importance of considering multiple domains of self-efficacy. Most notably, frequency of communication and especially frequency of email use related to all four domains of efficacy and frequency of playing games related to general, mathematics/science, and academic efficacy. However, social networking activities had a negative association with academic and general efficacy. We conclude by considering the importance of multiple domains in self-efficacy research and policy implications for students and their schools.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Digital inequalities; Digital divide; STEM subjects; Elementary school students; Internet activities

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2014 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2014