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Many parents contact me to ask whether they should buy a laptop for their child. In today’s technological world, we tend to think that every child needs a computer of their own. In reality, there are many factors to consider when making this decision. The culture at your child’s schoo...

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Does My Child Need a Laptop for School?

Posted by: Livia McCoy on Jan 31, 2011 in Technology, School Success, Livia McCoy, Kids Learning


Livia McCoy
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Children with laptopsMany parents contact me to ask whether they should buy a laptop for their child. In today’s technological world, we tend to think that every child needs a computer of their own. In reality, there are many factors to consider when making this decision. The culture at your child’s school may be such that almost every child has a laptop. If this is true, teachers may ask students to use their laptop in class for specific tasks. Or, it may be the other way around. It might be that almost no one has one.

Is it necessary to have a laptop to do well in school?

There are a few students who need a laptop or they will not succeed in school. These students have difficulty with handwriting. They are either dysgraphic (see Does My Child Have Dysgraphia) or just very slow when handwriting. These students benefit from learning how to use a computer, especially if they receive the appropriate training on the keyboard. They should be able to type fast enough to keep up with others who are handwriting notes (approximately 20-25 words/minute is plenty fast). They also need to handle their computer at an automatic level. In other words, they are not distracted by having a computer for taking notes or completing assignments. They operate it efficiently with ease.

There are some students who can benefit from a laptop, but it is not necessary for academic success. These students are organized and can take care of a laptop responsibly. They already type well enough and use correct fingering. They also resist the temptation of all the extra "stuff" on their computer (like games). But, they can manage just fine handwriting their notes and assignments.

Then, there are the students who are actually harmed by having a laptop in class. They play games when they are supposed to be listening. This is almost impossible for the teacher to monitor. They cannot stand behind every student with a laptop all the time to see what they are doing. If a school provides wireless access, this becomes an even bigger issue! (Not only will they be playing games on their computer, but they will also be shopping for new jogging shoes.)

Students who probably are better off without a laptop are not computer savvy enough to manage the computer on their own. For example, they lose their files, forget to print out their notes, or frequently misplace their flash drive. These students are not able to take care of their computer so it is always in need of repair. They have trouble remembering to charge the battery before classes and forget to bring the power cord. For these students, a laptop becomes a distraction and they may learn less in class than they would if they did not have it.

The decision to buy a laptop is not an easy one. It may be a good idea to discuss it with your child’s teacher before making the purchase. Also consider that when children own laptops it is more difficult to monitor their online activities at home. There is something to be said for having an "old fashioned" desktop computer in the family room!

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Comments

  1. Posted by - Peter on Oct. 18, 2012

    There are also kids who can't spell and need spellcheck. Trust me I am one of them and won't need it for middle school( it is not needed and I'm in ap classes. I'm in 8 grade but I suspect so for high school.
  2. Posted by - Anna on Aug. 07, 2011

    @Rebecca, Hi I'm a highschooler, and I can tell you elementary school children most definitely do not use or need a laptop to bring to school. Grades 7-9 are a bit more iffy, but even then, unless your child is extremely responsible, and will *for sure* not lose it or break it, then I would think about it. However, highschool students in grades 10-12 most likely need one. You write many, many essays, and you need a way to keep track of it all (plus, you need to keep your social life in check). When you think your kid is old enough for a laptop, first buy them a cheap laptop (usually in the $200-400). If they use it well, then grant them a better one. If they complain about it continuously about how you did not want to buy them a better computer, then i would rethink it (as they may want a computer simply to have all the shiny features). Best of luck! :)
  3. Posted by - Connie McCarthy on Feb. 02, 2011

    In my elementary school childen do not have laptops. They do their computer work on shared classroom computers. For the most part this works well, although there certainly are times when it would be beneficial for each child to have their own computer. However as a first grade teacher I would have the same concerns as Rebecca...considering the lost lunchboxes, dropped calculators, missing mittens, etc. that I see on a daily basis!
  4. avatar

    Posted by LiviaMcCoy on Feb. 02, 2011

    That's a great question. I really don't know of children in the lower elementary grades taking a laptop to school. Some schools do teach children how to use them early on, though. I am aware of students near me in Virginia who have laptops issued by the school beginning in middle school. I'm sure it varies by locality. I think I would wait and see what the school where your daughter goes recommends.
  5. Posted by - Rebecca on Feb. 01, 2011

    My kids aren't just yet in school yet and while my daughter (who will be in kindergarten next year) does use a the computer at home to play games, I'm really afraid of the idea of her going to school with a laptop and something might happen (drop it, forget it). I'm just wondering about what grade do kids start using laptops in school?

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