More than 1.2 million children could be falling behind at school because of slow internet speeds at home, according to research by price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com.
An increasing amount of homework is being set that relies on a decent home broadband connection – with 69 per cent of parents agreeing that the internet is now ‘essential’ to their child’s education.
On average, parents say their child does 3.9 hours of homework a week with around half of that requiring access to the internet.
Less than one in 10 (seven per cent) parents say their child doesn’t utilise online resources.
However, 40 per cent say their child uses YouTube, which offers educational content such as the Crash Course channel and The Brain Scoop, 38 per cent say they use Wikipedia and 32 per cent turn onto BBC Bitesize.
When it comes to the hardware of choice, laptops (61 per cent) are the most common devices used for doing homework, with parents also reporting the use of tablets (54 per cent), mobile phones (37 per cent), games consoles (11 per cent) and smart TVs (11 per cent).
Despite this shift to digital learning, more than one in three parents (36 per cent) report that their child has experienced internet problems when attempting to complete their homework.
Disturbingly, 15 per cent of parents believe internet problems at home are directly responsible for their child falling behind at school.
Despite the regulator Ofcom finding that homes in rural areas are most likely to go without decent broadband, parents in towns and cities are more than five times more likely (28 per cent) to blame internet problems for potentially harming their child’s education.
Separately, a quarter of parents believe their child’s ability to do homework is being impacted by the internet ‘slowdown’ at peak times in the evening.
Ofcom has previously found people using the internet at peak times get half the speed they’re promised.
“The fact that poor broadband connectivity at home could be having a material impact on our children’s learning is deeply worrying,” said uSwitch.com head of regulation Richard Neudegg.
“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.
“Our data shows that for some 36 per cent of parents, they believe this has already impacted their child’s ability to study at home.
“Superfast broadband is now available to over 96 per cent 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.