Press release:

Digital poverty line: poor broadband services see 1.2 million children falling behind

  • One in seven (15%) parents – to the equivalent of around 1.2 million children – think sub-par internet speeds are negatively impacting their child’s education[1]
  • Half of homework is now reliant on decent internet speeds[2] – yet over a third (36%) of parents say their children have experienced internet problems while doing homework[3]
  • Surprisingly, parents in rural areas, which suffer the most from slower speeds[4], are the least likely to report their children are falling behind[5]
  • A quarter of parents believe ‘busier’ peak times for internet usage, such as the evening, are impacting their child’s ability to do homework[6]
  • With seven in 10 (69%) parents saying that the internet is essential to their child’s education[7], uSwitch.com encourages the Government and industry to help ensure households are bought along on the journey to faster, more reliable broadband services.

More than 1.2 million children could be falling behind at school because of slow internet speeds at home[1], according to research by uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

An increasing amount of homework is being set that relies on a decent home broadband connection – with 69% of parents agreeing that the internet is now ‘essential’ to their child’s education[7]. On average, parents say their child does 3.9 hours of homework a week with around half of that (1.9 hours) requiring access to the internet[2].

Less than one in 10 (7%) parents say their child doesn’t utilise online resources. However,  40% say their child uses YouTube, which offers educational content such as the Crash Course channel and The Brain Scoop, 38% say they use Wikipedia and 32% turn onto BBC Bitesize[8]. When it comes to the hardware of choice, laptops (61%) are the most common devices used for doing homework, with parents also reporting the use of tablets (54%), mobile phones (37%), games consoles (11%) and smart TVs (11%)[9].

Despite this shift to digital learning, more than one in three parents (36%) report that their child has experienced internet problems when attempting to complete their homework[3]. Disturbingly, 15% of parents believe internet problems at home are directly responsible for their child falling behind at school[1]. Despite the regulator Ofcom finding that homes in rural areas are most likely to go without decent broadband[4], parents in towns and cities are more than five times more likely (28%) to blame internet problems for potentially harming their child’s education[5].

Separately, a quarter (24%) of parents believe their child’s ability to do homework is being impacted by the internet ‘slowdown’ at peak times in the evening[6]. Ofcom has previously found people using the internet at peak times get half the speed they’re promised[10].

Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch.com says: “The fact that poor broadband connectivity at home could be having a material impact on our children’s learning is deeply worrying.

“For some time now, teachers have been warning of a nationwide risk that children could fall behind if broadband speeds are not up to par[11]. Our data shows that for some 36% of parents, they believe this has already impacted their child’s ability to study at home[3].

“Superfast broadband is now available to over 96% of premises in the UK and can cost as little as £20 a month. Take-up of these faster, more reliable services is still not where it could be – despite one in seven parents believing their child is falling behind at school because the internet is not working properly at home.

“The government has recently announced a voucher scheme for SMEs that is designed to help with the cost of connecting to ‘full fibre’ broadband. It’s high time attention was turned to helping families get onto better suited, more reliable broadband services.”

uSwitch’s Connectivity without Complexity campaign has been looking at these key issues and exploring their impact on consumers. We believe it’s time the industry gave the facts – being open and upfront with the information that matters, removed the needless hoops that consumers are made to jump through and worked to ensure the road to faster, more reliable connectivity is a journey for all. To find out more, visit www.uswitch.com/connectivity.

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

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Notes to editors

Switch.com surveyed a sample of 1,000 UK parents of children aged 5-18 from the 5th to the 8th of March. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria. 952 respondents identified themselves as parents of children who do homework.

 

  1. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked: ‘Which of the following statements do you agree with?’ – 15% selected agree to ‘I think my child is falling behind at school because the internet is not working properly at home’.
    Calculation: 8.67 million pupils in the UK: (SOURCE: Govt)
    95% of parents say their children do homework = 8,236,500
    15% of 8,236,500 million  = 1,235,475
  2. Respondents were asked ‘How much homework does your child do every week?’ – the mean response was 3.9 hours. Respondents were asked ‘How much of that homework is reliant on access to the internet?’ – the mean response was 1.8 hours. 1.8 hours is 46.15% of 3.9 hours.
  3. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked: ‘Which of the following statements do you agree with?’ – 36% selected agree to ‘My child has experienced internet problems when completing their homework’.
  4. Source: Ofcom, December 2017: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2017/connected-nations-digital-divide
  5. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked whether they agree with the statement ‘I think my child is falling behind at school because the internet is not working properly at home’ – the net response for those living in rural areas was 5%, the net response for those living in urban areas was 28%.
  6. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked ‘Which of the following statements do you agree with?’ – 24% selected agree to ‘Internet ‘slowdown’ at peak times in the evening is having an impact on my child’s ability to do homework’.
  7. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked ‘Which of the following statements do you agree with?’ – 69% selected agree to ‘The internet is essential to my child’s education’.
  8. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked ‘In terms of accessing the internet for homework and educational content, which online resources does your child[ren] use your home internet connection for?’ – 7% said that ‘My child doesn’t use online resources’, 40% said ‘Youtube’, 38% said ‘Wikipedia’ and 32% said ‘BBC Bitesize’.
  9. Respondents, whose children do homework, were asked ‘Which of the following internet enabled devices does your child[ren] use for educational purposes?’ – 61% said ‘Laptops’, 54% said ‘Tablets’, 37% said ‘Mobile Phones’ and 11% said ‘Games Consoles’ and ‘Smart TV’s’.
  10. Source: Ofcom, April 2017, available at – https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2017/04/broadband_providers_don_t_offer_consistent_speeds_throughout_the_day_/
  11. Source: cable.co.uk, January 2016, available at – https://www.cable.co.uk/news/revealed-how-inadequate-expensive-school-broadband-is-holding-our-children-back-700001240/

 

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