3 Ways a Lack of Internet Access Impacts Students

As more and more states implement technology-rich programs in schools, children in poorer areas struggle to keep apace. According to a recent Pew Research report, just over 50 percent of these households have internet access. Even if students can access the internet and complete assignments at school or in libraries, a lack of access at home is a critical piece of the learning puzzle.

In many parts of the country, internet access is still a luxury. Here are three reasons why we mustn’t ignore this fact when it comes to education:

1. Participation in Collaborative Activities is Hindered

Technology in the classroom helps engage students beyond the classroom. Discussion boards, peer editing workshops and tools like Google Docs encourage learning and collaboration after school hours. However, in order for students to fully partake in these activities, persistent internet is needed, and limited access greatly hinders participation. In households earning less than $30,000 a year, Pew Research relays that only 18 percent of students have computer access at home. When factored in with extracurriculars and personal responsibilities, one-hour time slots on a public computer may not be enough for students who rely on libraries and campus computer labs. Instead of being able to enjoy learning, students end up worrying about whether or not they can even participate.

2. Health Takes a Hit

While low-income families may be able to afford laptops and other internet-enabled devices, many areas do not have yet the systems in place to provide affordable internet. So, once libraries close shop, many rural students relocate to the likes of McDonald’s and Starbucks to complete assignments and conduct research. This solution is both productive and problematic.

One on hand, free wi-fi is a perk that all of us make use of if we have the appropriate devices. Conversely, studying at McDonald’s is likely not the ideal for educators and health professionals alike, given the accessibility of inexpensive, but unhealthy, food options at these locations. However, for certain communities, large chains are sometimes the only option students have for a late-night study spot, since free wi-fi is critical. Indeed, for one Alabama city, McDonald’s now stands as the only location with free wi-fi since the public library recently closed down.

3. Students Remain in a Game of Catch-Up

Many resources services have gone digital. College and financial aid applications, resume tools, government services and, of course, social networks, are just some of the offerings available to internet users. Yet, if students are cut off from these tools early on in education, their chances of staying offline remain high. 41 percent of adults without a high school diploma are offline, a stark contrast to the 1 in 20 offline adults who earn over $75,000 a year. Even if there are government initiatives like ConnectED are in place to provide internet access to all students, it will take years before its goals come to fruition. Arguably, the internet is not needed to live a productive and fulfilling life. But for students who want to benefit from its resources but do not have access at home, this inequity looks to have long term effects as well.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Carl R
Carl R4 months ago


deven h.
deven humiston2 years ago

kids need to access the internet it's part of the society that we have. kids that have no internet can't catch up until it's to late

Cindy Mayer
Cindy Mayer3 years ago

I know that for our grandparents and for some parents the way we study seems really weird and maybe not efficient. But we all know it is, and moreover using technologies and the internet is extremely important for future career. But while we are still students we can avoid time pressure applying for help with essay papers and having access to the largest electronic libraries which can offer just the piece you need without looking through tons of books. We cannot afford being as slow as our parents used to be, every moment should be devoted to some amazing things that bring you closer to success.

Dale O.

So very true, another way that students in low income families are having problems competing the same world as students from families of affluence.

When I went to school, there were no computers in the classroom, so there was no problem, but today computers are a part of life in so many ways.

Heather G.
Heather G3 years ago

No, having the Internet doesn't automatically make someone a genius but not knowing how to use a computer in this day and age makes you stupid.

Heather G.
Heather G3 years ago

To say "I didn't have Internet and computers when I were in school so why do students need them now" is not a smart comment. In fact it's rather ridiculous!!

Dianne T.
Dianne T3 years ago

Unfortunately the internet is almost essential to students these day - like it or not.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thank you for the post.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 3 years ago

The internet is almost essential 4 every student...tho I find it a hindrance more often then not.

.3 years ago

The internet, it provides a great way for them to interact with their friends, play games and look up information that cannot be substantiated. All, instead of doing their homework. It also allows them to engage with pedophiles, etc. It also reduces the drive to do any type of physical exercise or listen to their parents.

Yes, this comment is very cynical. But, you have to weigh the good with the bad. Having internet, doesn't automatically make you a genius. Otherwise everyone that grew up without the internet must be lacking in intelligence and had a poor education. I don't think that to be true as I grew up without internet.

You have to weigh the pros and cons. It isn't the magic "fix-all". If other social problems were addressed, this wouldn't be as big of an issue.