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Technology Your College-Bound Teen Does Need

If your teenager is heading off to college, the one thing you can be sure of is that their back-to-school list is packed with technology. So much of campus life has gone digital, that a student without the most important devices will be at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean you have to load up on every technical gadget that hits the shelves. Here are four must-have digital goodies, plus four you can comfortably leave behind.

Technology Your College-Bound Teen Does Need

Laptop and Smartphone

These are as fundamental as pens and a notebook used to be. The bulk of your student’s academic work, from taking notes to doing research and writing papers, happens on a laptop. (A tablet and keyboard are ok too, if they’re good quality.) The smartphone is what they will use to chat with friends and call home — occasionally.

Remote Backup

Sure, everyone should back up all their data to an external hard drive. But what if that drive is lost or stolen along with the laptop? That’s when you turn to online backup. Services like Backblaze and Crashplan run automatically and maintain current backups in the cloud.

Unlimited Data Plan

Putting a limit on a college student’s data means putting a limit on his or her learning. Every download, upload, and internet search uses data‚ not to mention video chatting with Mom and Dad. Spring for an unlimited data plan like T-MobileONE to guarantee your teen will always have access to the information and connection he or she needs.

Extra Power

Digital technology is everywhere on college campuses, but an available outlet can be surprisingly hard to find. When your college student is pulling an all-nighter with friends, that laptop battery may not be enough. Fortunately, it’s easy to pack a lot of backup power in a relatively small device.

‘Think about your teen’s laptop, what kinds of recharging options are available on campus, and a generous estimate of how much power he or she is likely to need on busy days. Good external power can be pricey, but given the importance of staying connected, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Technology Your College-Bound Teen Does Not Need

Bluetooth Headset

This one may be surprising, but the fact is that teens do a lot more texting than talking on their smartphones. If you teen stores music on a smartphone, he or she probably already has high-quality headphones or earbuds. Bluetooth headsets are easily lost or broken, and they’re something most teens just do not need.


As early as 2015, Forbes reported that the use of landlines was tanking as cell phone use continued to increase. That trend hasn’t changed, and many colleges have taken note by disconnecting landline service to cut costs. If your college-bound teen is going to live in a dorm, there may be no option to have a landline. Even if a landline is available or he or she is opting for an apartment, this bit of technology is largely obsolete.


Here’s one that will save room in the overpacked car — your teen doesn’t need a printer. Colleges are increasingly cutting costs by eliminating paper waste, and when students do need to print, they can do so at central campus printers. Look into the policies and resources wherever your teen is headed, but you can probably keep that big old clunky printer at home.

DVD Player (or a TV)

Finally, you may take for granted that your teen needs a DVD player — and a television to hook it up to — at school. After all, everyone needs to take a break now and then, and you know how much TV they watch at home. But these days, there’s almost nothing that you can’t watch using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone and a streaming service. Save space in the car and set your teen up with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video — no extra hardware required.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the volume of tech gadgets on offer for kids heading off to college. Your teen probably does need more technology than you or your older kids did if and when they left the nest. But, there are also a lot of old-school devices he or she can leave behind. And if they miss having their own television or printer? They’ll just have to plan a visit home.

Featured Image via Flickr by david_shankbone