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Indicator 5: Student Computer Use and Internet Access at Home

In 2015, some 88 percent of 8th-grade students reported that they used a computer at home, and 92 percent reported that they had access to the Internet at home. For 4th-grade students, the percentage who reported using a computer at home and the percentage who reported having access to the Internet at home were both 83 percent.

Using data collected in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading administration, this indicator describes differences in students' computer use and internet access at home, with respect to student and school characteristics. NAEP assesses student performance in reading at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation.1 In addition to administering the assessment, NAEP includes a student questionnaire to provide context for student performance. The NAEP student questionnaire includes questions on demographics, as well as questions about students' use of computers and the Internet in their homes.2 Information in this indicator serves as context for later indicators in the chapter, which focus on associations between computer use/internet access at home and children's performance on the NAEP reading, mathematics, science, and information and communication technology (ICT) assessments.

Among 8th-grade students, 88 percent reported that they used a computer at home, and 92 percent reported that they had access to the Internet at home in 2015. For 4th-grade students, the percentage who reported using a computer at home and the percentage of students having access to the Internet at home were both 83 percent.


Figure 5.1. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported using a computer at home, by selected student and school characteristics: 2015

Figure 5.1. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported using a computer at home, by selected student and school characteristics: 2015

NOTE: Includes students tested in reading with accommodations (11 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all 8th-graders). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 221.35.


At both grade 4 and grade 8, the percentages of students who reported using a computer at home and the percentages of students who reported having access to the Internet at home varied by student and school characteristics in 2015. Regarding home computer use, for example, the percentage of 8th-grade students who reported that they used a computer at home was highest for Asian students (97 percent) and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (74 percent). The percentage was also higher for White students (92 percent) than for students of Two or more races (88 percent), Black students (84 percent), Pacific Islander students (83 percent), and Hispanic students (81 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who used a computer at home was higher for female students (89 percent) than for male students (88 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who used a computer at home was also higher for non-English language learners (ELL) (89 percent) than for ELL students (75 percent). In addition, the percentage of 8th-grade students who used a computer at home was highest for students in low-poverty schools (96 percent) and lowest for students in high-poverty schools (79 percent).3 Similar patterns of differences were observed at grade 4. For example, the percentage of 4th-grade students who reported that they used a computer at home was highest for Asian students (92 percent) and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (72 percent). The percentage was also higher for White students (87 percent) than for students of Two or more races (85 percent), Black students and Pacific Islander students (80 percent each), and Hispanic students (77 percent).


Figure 5.2. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported using a computer at home, by school locale: 2015

Figure 5.2. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported using a computer at home, by school locale: 2015

NOTE: Includes students tested in reading with accommodations (11 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all 8th-graders).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 221.35.


The percentage of students who reported using a computer at home also varied according to the locale in which their school was situated (i.e., located in a city, suburb, town, or rural area). For both 4th-grade and 8th-grade students in 2015, the percentage was highest for students in suburban schools, followed by students in city and rural schools, and lowest for students in town schools. The percentage of 8th-grade students who reported that they used a computer at home was lower for students in schools located in remote towns and remote rural areas (83 percent each) than for those in large suburbs (92 percent), midsize suburbs (90 percent), small cities and fringe rural areas (89 percent each), fringe towns (88 percent), and large cities (86 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who reported that they used a computer at home was also lower for students in schools located in distant towns and distant rural areas (85 percent each) than for those in large suburbs, midsize suburbs, small cities, fringe rural areas, and fringe towns.


Figure 5.3. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported having access to the Internet at home, by selected student and school characteristics: 2015

Figure 5.3. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported having access to the Internet at home, by selected student and school characteristics: 2015

NOTE: "Access to the Internet" was one item on a list preceded by the question "Do you have the following in your home?" For each item, students could either select "Yes" or leave the item blank. Students who left "Access to the Internet" blank are counted as having no internet access at home. Includes students tested in reading with accommodations (11 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all 8th-graders). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 221.35.


The percentage of students who reported having access to the Internet at home also varied by student and school characteristics in 2015. Most differences were observed at both grade 4 and grade 8, with patterns similar to those observed for home computer use. For example, at both grades, the percentages of students having access to the Internet at home were highest for Asian students and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students; and the percentage was also higher for non-ELL students than for ELL students. In addition, the percentage was highest for students in low-poverty schools and lowest for students in high-poverty schools. The only exception is that in 8th grade, the percentage of students having access to the Internet at home was higher for female students (93 percent) than for male students (92 percent); while in 4th grade, the percentage was not measurably different by sex (83 percent for both males and females).


Figure 5.4. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported having access to the Internet at home, by school locale: 2015

Figure 5.4. Percentage of 8th-graders who reported having access to the Internet at home, by school locale: 2015

NOTE: "Access to the Internet" was one item on a list preceded by the question "Do you have the following in your home?" For each item, students could either select "Yes" or leave the item blank. Students who left "Access to the Internet" blank are counted as having no internet access at home. Includes students tested in reading with accommodations (11 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all 8th-graders).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 221.35.


As with the percentage of students who reported using a computer at home, the percentage of students who reported having access to the Internet at home also varied by school locale in 2015. In 8th grade, the percentage was highest for students in suburban schools (94 percent), followed by students in city schools (92 percent), and lowest for students in rural and town schools (91 and 90 percent, respectively). In 4th grade, the percentage was highest for students in suburban schools (85 percent), followed by students in rural and city schools (82 and 81 percent, respectively), and lowest for students in town schools (78 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who reported having access to the Internet at home was lowest for students in schools located in remote rural areas (86 percent). The percentage of 8th-grade students who reported having access to the Internet at home was also lower for students in schools located in distant towns and remote towns (89 percent each) than for those in midsize suburbs (95 percent), large suburbs (94 percent), small cities (93 percent), large cities (92 percent), small suburbs (92 percent), fringe rural areas (92 percent), fringe towns (92 percent) and midsize cities (91 percent).


1 The results for grade 8 students are shown in the figures. The results for grade 4 students are available in reference tables cited at the end of the indicator.
2 Information in this indicator comes from data collected through the NAEP questionnaire administered to students participating in the 2015 NAEP reading assessment.
3 Low-poverty schools are those with 025 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and high-poverty schools are those with 76100 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. For more discussions on using free or reduced-price lunch data as a proxy for poverty, see the NCES blog "Free or reduced-price lunch: A proxy for poverty?".



Reference Tables

  • Table 5.1. (Digest table 221.35) Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score and percentage distribution of 4th- and 8th-graders, by computer use and internet access at home and other selected characteristics: 2015