The Absence of Internet at Home is a Problem for Some Students

While it may seem like almost everyone has internet access, a shocking number of families lack fast or reliable internet connections. There are roughly 5 million households with school-age children who don’t have broadband internet access at home. That means millions of students are being left behind.

There are many ways that a lack of internet access can affect a student’s academic performance. Students without internet can’t connect with teachers or classmates, do independent research, or get online homework help. For families, not having internet access can mean missing out on information or losing out on a direct line of communication with schools and teachers.

One of the biggest problems faced by students without internet access at home is their inability to complete homework. Homework has long been a source of hot debate within the education community. Should homework be assigned? Those who say yes argue that homework allows students to continue learning at home and prepares them for the rigors of college. Others claim that homework is unfair—home is not an even playing field, and some students have access to more resources and a better environment for completing homework.

The internet has only intensified this debate. Up to 70% of teachers assign homework that requires the use of the internet. About 65% of students use the internet to complete homework, which includes doing research, submitting assignments, emailing teachers, and collaborating online with classmates. But what does that mean for students who don’t have internet access at home? They may fall behind, or they might spend hours looking for free Wi-Fi access points.

Schools increasingly expect parents to be able to log on, too. Teachers use email lists to update parents on field trips, class activities, and more. School websites may be the only place for parents to find valuable information. Even grades are going online, with many schools using internet-based grade books. In theory, this allows parents easier access to their child’s grades. In practice, this can mean certain parents are left behind—namely, those without reliable internet access.

Who exactly are these students without internet access? In 2015, the Pew Research Center analyzed data from studies on internet access and found that the problem is mainly in low-income families. Among households with an annual income under $50,000, 31.4% don’t have broadband internet access. For households with an annual income over $50,000, the number is much smaller—only 8.4% lack access to broadband internet.

There is also a racial gap when it comes to internet access. Eighty-eight percent of White households and 92% of Asian households with school-age children have high-speed internet access. On the other hand, only 72% of Black and Hispanic households with school-age children have high-speed internet access.

Students from low-income families and minority students are often already at a disadvantage. Black and Hispanic students score lower on standardized tests and are less likely to earn a college degree. Students from wealthier families consistently make better SAT scores than those from lower income families.

A lack of reliable, high-speed internet will only make the so-called achievement gap wider. Now low-income and minority students may also have to fight against the gap between students with internet access and those without. This new inequality is often called the digital divide, and it is a growing problem in education.

There are many proposed solutions. Some school districts now provide free Wi-Fi on school buses, allowing students to complete homework during their commute. Programs sponsored by the government and other organizations help provide low-income families with internet access. But nothing has yet completely eliminated the digital divide, and there are still millions of students who don’t have internet access.

How can school districts and other stakeholders help students who lack high-speed internet access? Tell us what you think!

16 Replies to “The Absence of Internet at Home is a Problem for Some Students”

  1. In my opinion, the federal government, school administrators and relevant authorities should step-up their mandate to ensure equitable distribution of internet to the residents irrespective of race, ethnicity or cultural background.
    I believe with the necessary steps taken to reach this goal it’s something that is attainable meanwhile before these is realised, non-profit institutions and welfare communities should help with providing free internet to these homes through collaboration with different ISPs.

  2. The federal and well-wishers should step-in and assist with finding a solution to those households that are not yet connected to the internet. In essence what is being done is for the good f our future generation and continue having a vibrant economy that embraces technology to broaden its wings.
    I look forward to reading your next informative work. Thanks

  3. I commend you on your excellent report on internet access. The issue needs to be addressed by a sober mind with an aim of making education for all an equaliser.
    Thanks, Mathew.

  4. Thanks Matthew for such an interesting read.Internet access is essential for learning and it is prudent to provide this resource to homes in order to allow for seamless learning and healthy competition in learning among students of high-income homes and likewise to those from low-income households.

  5. Well, I am agreed with you. Internet plays a crucial role to make education easier as students can be capable to search anything through out the world online data and can get up to date information on any topic or subject. Even their are list of MOOC websites that offers various online courses by which a student can cover easily.

  6. I cannot afford a home Computer or internet access. I’ve explained this to my child’s teachers several occasions. Yet they continue to not allow her the computer lab time during school, she can’t do it during lunch she barely gets enough time to eat, sometimes she can’t even finish eating due to overcrowding the lunch line takes way to long. My child was an honor student for her entire life til attending this new middle school now shes barely getting B’s isnt it illegal to do this I don’t know what to do I simply cant afford it. I work full-time with a direct sales part time job just to pay the rent and bills. Ive never received a dime from her father despite him oweing well over $100,000 in child support. Now thanks to Tesla’s new gig factory opening here in Reno my landlord raised tent $225 dollars I pay $925 for a 2bedroom. Mobile home. Not my idea of home sweet home but it’s the best I can do alone right now. What can I do about her grades this doesn’t seem fair to me.

    1. I know this is 2 years late, but I would best advice that you go to your child school and explain to them what you are going through. Surely they will understand.

    2. I feel you so much! One of my children apparently has had a hard time that I wasn’t aware of as she tells me all is well. I just found out after months because I finally was able to pay my Internet for this month and got an email stating that the counselors and teachers have been trying to get a hold of me for months. Why couldn’t they send a note home with one of my children? Bet they wouldn’t have had to try to get ahold of me for months then! For months they’ve made it seem as if I don’t care about my child, which is 100% in accurate! My children got pictures every single year but the minute they stop sending paperwork home to get pictures we don’t know about them so we cant get them anymore. Unfortunately just like any other event they don’t send any paperwork home anymore. Because they wrongfully assume everyone has fancy phones and wifi my kids who already have to go without too much have to go without things they would be able to have because the school clearly doesn’t care to accommodate families without Internet. Don’t you think if they were as desperate to get a hold of meas they acted that they would have sent at least one note home in all this time!!??? Not just assume im not answering bc I don’t give a damn! It all makes makes me sick it’s very discriminating. I was a rude mother actually the head of her mother all throughout elementary school and was very active until they took away. Sending anything home through the kids and I got screwed and my kids got screwed even more because everyone assumes we all have Internet, so our children suffer!

  7. One possible solution for lack of access to technological advancements would be to broadcast lectures/classroom lessons on the radio. And for those who don’t have a radio, then in cooperation with a supplier it would probably be very inexpensive to distribute the radios for a low rental fee, and/or there could be donation programs of money or equipment. The stations would be able to keep a percentage of all the proceeds and their cooperation would be publicized so as to become a valuable public relations tool. Of course, the programming and lesson plans would be designed to enhance and coordinate with classroom activities. This approach ought to be interesting for retired teachers to become involved.

  8. My household is is one who does not have internet access nor will we I believe the school system should not impose or expect my household to have it I do not believe in it. And my children should not be left behind because of my choice behind my own walls now if it was even offered for free I would choose or out not to have it in my whole nor should I ever be expected to that leaves the answer to be not have it on the internet at all. There is legislature in Act put it in by President Bush that no child should be left behind and they are every single day that this goes on. I also believe that my children should not be logged on to any sort of program that they can be tracked scores and algorithmed. For that information to be statistically sold or take advantage of by someone else whether it be kept Anonymous or not. You could not pay me to get the internet in my house. And let us all remember this is a public school system and if we cannot have everyone at the same level of learning then it has not become a fair public school system.

  9. I am a low income family that isn’t able to afford internet always and only have a government cell that doesn’t hold enough data to do much of anything. I finally got Internet back and found out that the school has been trying to get a hold of me for months about one of my children and their grades. Why in the world would they not send a damn note home through my children if they wanted to get a hold of me so bad, what is so wrong with that we did it for a century. Instead of sending things home I’ve missed out on pictures every year since they don’t send no time for that either we miss all kinds of events because they don’t send anything on paper anymore which is very discriminating in my opinion. My children got pictures every year until they stop sending the picture paperwork home. You would think principals and teachers that can’t get a hold of people would send a note through the children. Also talk about discriminating my husband has been to the school multiple times to drop say a lunch or some homework off. My children forgot the secretary at the school. Just tell them to text their children and tell them to come to the office do you know how embarrassing it is for me and my child to look at the lady and tell her sorry my kids don’t have working phones. How dare her just assume everybody has a working phone for everyone in their family not everybody has that luxury of having that much money especially right now. This is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not OK they don’t send anything home anymore and it’s absolutely not OK they just assume that I don’t wanna speak to them about my children’s welfare and well-being because I don’t answer emails everything I don’t get them !!??

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