Well, according to this recent study, no, at least in terms of standardized math and reading outcomes. Two Duke economists use large scale data sets to investigate the impact of gaining access to computers and the Internet on children’s test scores in math and reading. For computer ownership, they use a self-reported measure by students. For Internet access, they use a proxy variable related to number of local Internet Service Providers. In both cases, whether via home computer ownership or ISP access, they find a negative impact on individual student’s math and reading scores after gaining more home access to technology. The negative impact is greatest for African-American youth–for other groups, the impact is mixed (sometimes positive, sometimes negative, depending on the measure and group). The authors interpret their findings as indicating that unproductive uses of computers tend to crowd out time spent doing homework, especially for low-income and minority students who may not have the kinds of social support needed for more productive uses of technology at home.
The differential impact of home technology by different groups is consistent with that find previously, for example, in our recent review of technology and equity among U.S. youth. It provides further evidence that the aim of our educational efforts should not be mere access, but rather development of a social environment where access to technology is coupled with the most effective curriculum, pedagogy, instruction, and assessment.