6 Tech Tips to Get Your Family Connected in L.A. County

A reliable computer and internet access are essential for online learning. Here are some tips on where to start.

At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve all had to adjust to learning and working from home. While some kids have become more adept at Zoom calls than we ever thought, even months into the school year, many of us are still struggling to secure reliable internet access or a working computer for our kids.

To alleviate the stress a little bit, here are six tech tips on how to get free or low-cost internet access and gear.

Reliable devices are critical to online learning environments.
  1. Need access to a temporary laptop and Wi-Fi? Select L.A. County Library branches are loaning kits that include a Chromebook, wireless hotspot to access the internet and charger all inside a carrying case. The kits are available to library cardholders (not digital cardholders, unfortunately) for three weeks with the option to renew. Patrons are encouraged to call one of the participating libraries to hold a kit. Find more information here.
  2. Are you looking for more permanent equipment without spending a fortune? The nonprofit PCs for People offers quality refurbished laptops, desktop computers and accessories for as little as $75.
  3. Los Angeles County recently launched a Wi-Fi hotspot locator tool (available in English and Spanish) that distinguishes hotspots by type and area. It includes libraries, parks, public buildings and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services sites, plus commercial spaces, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks locations. Working inside a library may be out of the question right now but packing up and heading to a local park for a while to snag some free Wi-Fi — plus sunshine and birdsong — doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. These specific parks around the county also offer free Wi-Fi in certain areas.
  4. Did you know that some cities like Lynwood, La Mirada, Culver City and Glendale have free public Wi-Fi zones? A few spots in the downtown Los Angeles offer free Wi-Fi too, such as downtown Los Angeles Pershing Square, Historic Core, Financial District, Bunker Hill, Grand Central Market, Little Tokyo and Microsoft Square L.A. LIVE. Since Wi-Fi speeds and availability can vary, it’s a good idea to go on Twitter before heading out to check if Wi-Fi is indeed still available at any certain location. A quick search of the location you’re planning to go to, say Pershing Square, and the words “free wifi” can help you get the answer you need quickly — albeit after a little bit of scrolling. Also, starting Oct. 19, four YMCA Metro L.A. branches are offering free unlimited internet access outside of their branches, with the goal of adding 16 more by November. You can now find free internet access at: the Weingart East Los Angeles Family YMCA, Weingart YMCA Wellness & Aquatic Center, Wilmington Family YMCA and the Montebello-Commerce Family YMCA.
  5. If you want to get internet access without leaving home, find out if you qualify for free or low-cost internet access. Spectrum, Cox and AT&T are some of the companies offering free or low cost Wi-Fi plans because of the pandemic. Find out if your family is eligible using this tool.
  6. If you have everything you need except a printer at home, the L.A. County Library also offers free printing (up to 10 black and white pages per card, per day) for pick up at many branches. All you need to do is log in with your library card number and password, upload your print job and call the library you want to pick it up at (find a list of available branches here). Remember to have your library card number and pin handy, as staff will ask you for it. They might also ask what address and phone number is associated with that card, so it’s a good idea to have that information on hand. Don’t have a physical library card yet? You can get a digital one that grants access to this printing service here.

Have a tech tip you’d like to share with other families? Please send it to vgonzalez@pmgsocal.org so we can update this list.