Will Smart Phones Erode the Class Divide?

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In the middle of a New York Times piece on parents and technology, Julie Scelfo brings up a fascinating question. Could smartphone use cause wealthier children to have less of an edge in verbal skills?

It's fairly well-established that wealthier households raise children with larger vocabularies: richer and better-educated parents apparently pass on more words to their children partly because they talk with their children more, and use a greater diversity of words, as well as reading to them. This translates into huge differences among children of different classes.

Children in higher socioeconomic homes hear an average of 2,153 words an hour, whereas those in working-class households hear only about 1,251; children in the study whose parents were on welfare heard an average of 616 words an hour.

Where this phenomenon intersects with the increased parental addiction to e-mail, computers, and smartphones is where things get really interesting. Richer kids currently have a vocabulary advantage. "The question is," writes Scelfo: "Will devices like smartphones change that?" Higher-income parents are disproportionate users of smartphones. Smartphones, it turns out, are cutting down on parent-child quality time. Could technology be working to level society, and in the most unlikely way?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.