I’m always glad to see a null finding reported, so I liked this paper by Robert Fairlie and Jonathan Robinson about what happened when they gave computers to randomly selected California schoolkids whose families had no computer at home. The short answer is nothing.
The slightly longer answer is that the kids reported an almost 50 percent increase in time spent using a computer, with the time divided between doing homework, playing games, and social network. But there was no improvement in academic achievement or attendance or anything else. There wasn’t even an improvement in computer skills. At the same time, there was no negative impact either. The access to extra computer games didn’t reduce total time spent on homework or lead to any declines in anything. They broke it down by a few demographic subgroups and didn’t find anything there either. It’s just a huge nada. Nothing happening.”