Why parents, teachers and school districts are fed up with their Chromebooks

Tens of thousands of kids are headed back to school with computers that are about to be useless.

Peter Mui | Used by permission

Since we published this article, Google has committed to extend the life of Chromebooks! Learn more about the victory here.

This fall, tens of thousands of kids will head back to school with Chromebooks that are about to be useless.

It’s not because the laptops are broken. Perfectly good computers are getting thrown away because Google has set arbitrary “death dates” for Chromebooks — often just a few years from when they were purchased — after which Google no longer provides software support.

Your child’s laptop should last longer than a backpack.

Parents and schools are trying to provide the best education possible for kids, often with limited resources. Throwing computers away — and needing to buy new ones — just because Google won’t support the Chromebooks that already exist is frustrating and wasteful. That’s why parents, teachers and schools are calling on Google to extend the lives of Chromebooks.

What “Chromebook churn” is costing us

For parents who have a laptop on their back-to-school shopping lists for grade school kids or kids going to college, getting a computer that will expire soon – or even that has already expired – can be costly. 

The built-in “death date” of a Chromebook is based on its model, not when you buy it, so the used or refurbished laptop you buy may stop working after just a year or sooner. It can be hard to avoid buying computers creeping up on their expiration dates: Some Chromebooks that have already expired can still be found and purchased on Amazon.

Parents and schools both know how tight school budgets can be. There are lots of things schools need money for instead of replacing perfectly good computers. But the “Chromebook churn” can leave schools with little other choice. Last year, one school district was forced to pay to replace 3,851 laptops as Chromebooks hit their death dates.

Many schools and parents are also trying to go green — and all these expiring Chromebooks turn into piles of hard-to-recycle e-waste. Only one-third of e-waste is ever properly recycled, meaning the majority of these laptops end up as pollution. Being able to use Chromebooks for longer would protect both the environment and our pocketbooks.

Parents and schools are calling on Google to make Chromebooks last longer

So what can we do to stop piles of working Chromebooks from becoming e-waste? Google has the power to extend the lives of Chromebooks, including ones that have already expired. Parents and schools are already taking action to convince the company to do the right thing and prevent millions more Chromebooks from expiring.

K-12 professionals, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and over 10,000 PIRG members have signed our letter to Google urging the company to stop Chromebooks from expiring this summer, and Google could still act to restore support.

You can help, too. Adding your name to the petition to Google is an easy way to start. Then, spread the word to friends, fellow parents, or your local PTA and school administrators. When we raise our voices together, we know we’ll be able to put a stop to the Chromebook churn.