More than half U.S. households own computers, census shows
The Press of Atlantic City

September 6, 2001

By MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218

Having a computer in your home is becoming as necessary as a telephone.

More than half the country's 105 million households have computers, according to U.S. Census Bureau survey figures released today. This is the first time that the percentage has been over 50 percent since the bureau started keeping track of such figures in 1984.

More children than ever before are growing up in homes with computers. Nearly two-thirds of all children between ages 3 and 17 live in houses with computers, and nearly one-third of children in that age range have gone online.

The need for instant communication, along with a decline in computer prices, contributed to the growing number of homes with computers, analysts said. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average price for a personal computer today is about $950, down from $1,450 in 1997.

Sean Robinson, 12, of Mays Landing, has been working on computers since he was 7 years old and loves it. The Weymouth Township Elementary School student has computer access in school and at home.

"I've had a computer for a year. My mom got it for me from my grandma. I do my school work on it and go on the Internet," he said.

Even children from lower income families who don't have computers at home have access at school. Nearly 90 percent of all school-age children ages 6 to 17 have access to computers either at home or at school.

In Pleasantville, an inner city Abbott School district, many students come from low- to moderate-income homes. And while many don't have the luxury of a computer at home, they all have access when they get to school.

The district has a top-notch technology department for all 4,000 students, Superintendent Andrew Carrington said Wednesday.

All four elementary schools, the middle and high schools have computer labs and about four computers per classroom with Internet access.

"Our computer technology program is one of the best in the state and in the nation. We are on the cutting edge," Carrington said. "We think we are leading in computer technology. And we only want to get better."

But there is still a push to bridge the "digital divide" so children can go on computers in their homes.

Anu Vedantham, director of the Atlantic County Educational Technology Training Center, at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway Township, said the center has a program to get parents and children together to make their own computers.

"It's becoming clear that even though large numbers of families are buying computers in suburban areas there are less families in the inner cities and rural areas who have them," Vedantham said. "This is causing more of a disparity between the haves and have nots."

Atlantic City and Buena Regional school districts received two grants called Access Community and Education grants.

Vedantham said one of the programs provided by the grant money is a 14-week training session with parents and high school students on how to make their own computers. Buena Vista will begin the course in October.

"We are supplying the parts and at the end of the sessions the children will be able to take home computers they made," she said.

The census figures are from a survey taken in August 2000 separate from last year's head count. The bureau began tracking households with computers in 1984, and started tracking Internet usage in 1997.

[(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)