Parents spending less on tech as more schools embrace devices

Experts said that more schools are stocking up on tablets and laptops this year, making more spending on electronics unnecessary.

Parents are spending less money on electronics this back-to-school year – but that doesn’t mean kids aren’t using technology.

The National Retail Foundation recently surveyed families, and found they would spend an average of $197.24 on gadgets this year. That’s down from an average of $212.35 in 2014.

Total spending on the whole, including on clothing and other materials, declined, according to the survey, which was released last month.

“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on ‘back to school’ has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronics and supplies every year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release. “Parents this summer will inventory their children’s school supplies and decide what is needed and what can be reused, which just makes good budgeting sense for families with growing children. Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that economic growth and consumer spending will improve after a shaky first half of the year.”


A spokeswoman for the NRF did not elaborate on why spending is down on electronics this year. But it is clear that more school districts are stocking up on tablets, iPads and Chromebooks, experts said, making it less necessary for parents to buy new technology. There are also devices from vendors like HP, Dell and Lenovo.

Chromebooks are being used in 22 percent of U.S. K-12 school districts, according to a 2013 Business Insider article — and the numbers are increasing.

“We definitely have more schools going to one-to-one programs where they will supply one device for every student,” said Jonathan Wylie, instructional technology consultant for Grant Wood AEA, a cluster of school districts in eastern Iowa.

“It’s definitely a trend we’re seeing in schools, giving kids access to devices,” he continued.

The swath of schools Wylie oversees even has a website tracking which districts have Mac laptops, PC laptops, iPads, Android tablets, Windows tablets, Chromebooks, Netbooks, bring your own device initiatives or use a combination of those platforms.


“I don’t think there’s any such things as a bad device anymore,” Wylie said. “Technology has evolved to a point where there’s great things you can do with all of them in a classroom.”

He said the schools are now looking to create makerspaces, which allow students to build and design their own projects.

Some districts with more advanced technology include Roanoke County Public Schools in Virginia, where kids study drones with HD cameras, robotics and 3-D printers. The district was highlighted by the Center for Digital Education during the 2014-15 school year for using cutting-edge technology.

“For 13 years, the school board’s 1:1 laptop initiative has been a cornerstone of the district’s technology program,” the website states. “With laptops, students have access to industry-standard software for opportunities such as internships with local fast-growing companies.”

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @clestch.

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