How to Pick the Right Back-to-School Computer for Your Kid
It’s August, and that means one thing: Your kids are mourning the end of summer, while you’re secretly counting the minutes until they’re out of your hair so you can reclaim your house and your sanity.
Before you can foist your little darlings upon the educational system, however, you’ll need to outfit them with the right gear. These days, back-to-school shopping is about more than just keeping your kids’ backpacks stocked with pencils, notebooks, and Trapper Keepers; they might also need things like iPads, Kindles, or Chromebooks.
If your kids are lucky enough to live in one of the roughly 20 percent of districts that have implemented a one-to-one computing program, they probably have access to a school-supplied computer — one they might even be able to use at home. Otherwise, though, you’re on the hook for virtually all their digital needs.
The kind of devices you get will depend a lot on your kids’ ages and their relative maturity, notes Ingrid Simone, a senior editor at Common Sense Media. Should you pass your old tablet down to your kindergartner? Buy your third-grader an inexpensive Chromebook? Get your middle-schooler a Kindle? How long can you put off buying your teenager a smartphone? (Answer: not long enough.)
Here’s my device advice for kids from toddlers to teens.
The early years
To a late preschooler or kindergartner, using a tablet is as natural as fingerpainting, which is why it’s typically the first computer the little nubbins will call their own. You have two options: Hand down an old iPad or other tablet you’re no longer using (and hope they don’t destroy it in the first five minutes), or buy a new one built specifically for shorties, like the Fuhu Nabi 2, Kurio 7S, or School Zone’s Little Scholar.
The Fuhu Nabi 2.
At prices starting around $150, these 7-inch Android-based tabs tend to be significantly cheaper than anything with an Apple logo on it. They’re typically ruggedized, so you’re less likely to have an expensive oops moment when your kid treats it like a Frisbee. These tabs come preloaded with a kid-friendly interface and software of varying educational value, as well as parental controls that limit the apps your children can run, the sites they can visit, and the amount of time they spend doing those things.