Tablets for Tots: How to Choose
Only a few years ago, buying a portable computer for a young child would seem preposterous, but with the rise of tablet computing and the intuitive touch-screen interface, your son or daughter can be computer savvy before they even learn to read.
You may remember the pre-mouse days of MS-DOS when knowing how to use a computer was more complicated than programming the clock on your VCR, but today's children are growing up in a world where computing is as much a part of life as using the telephone, and just as easy. And with the entry level of tablet computing becoming very affordable in the past couple years, there's no reason not to get your child started with his or her own tablet.
Apple may have unleashed the tablet on the world when it introduced the iPad in 2010, but since then, the options have increased exponentially, and narrowing your search down can be daunting. There are far too many tablets to list here, much less review, so here are a few questions to ask yourself and things to keep in mind when shopping for a tablet for your child:
- How long do you expect your child to use the tablet? When buying any kind of computer equipment, you run the risk of buying into technology that will be replaced by something better within the next year or so. When you add to that the fact that you're buying something that can easily be dropped, thrown, or simply lost, you also need to think about how well you think your child will treat it.
- How long will it be age-appropriate? Some children's tablets are specifically designed for certain age groups, so a tablet that's designed for a five-year-old who's just learning to read may be less interesting to him a year later.
- Is it worth it to buy a more expensive tablet? High-end tablets may not be designed to be kid-safe, but with the right case, can be made to be pretty accident resistant. It's possible that for a bit more money, you could buy a tablet that the kids can use during the day and the parents can use after the little ones are in bed.
- Do you need a camera? Most – but not all – tablets have cameras now, but not all cameras are equal. If you want your child to be able to take high-quality photographs or videos, pay close attention to the reviews and make that one of your points of comparison.
- Will you need to buy a case? Most kid-specific tablets have built-in shock resistance and sometimes even waterproofing, but if you're looking into a more versatile tablet for the long-term, you may need to invest in some protection. A quality shock-resistant tough skin or case can add to the price, so be sure to include that in your calculations.
- Read the expert and customer reviews. The best bet for real world experience with the products you're shopping for (unless you actually know someone who's used it) is to find a retail site that allows customers to review their purchases. Ideally there should be at least a dozen or so reviews to ensure a good sampling, and pay special attention to the bad reviews – but always take the good and the bad with a grain of salt, especially if they're excessively critical or glowing.
Again, there are too many tablets to list in this space, but here are a few you might consider:
For the kids and the adults:
Start by reading reviews and researching the types of apps that you want to use and which platform is best for them.
- Apple iPad and iPad Mini – Many people still think the original is the best, and with the most apps and accessories available, it's hard to argue.
- Android tablets – Android is a platform developed by Google and used by some of the top manufacturers. Some of the top picks include the Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy, and Sony Xperia.
- Kindle and Nook – The e-readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble have evolved into full-featured tablets, and may suit your needs well, especially if you have a child who loves to read.
Just for kids:
- LeapPad Ultra – LeapPad's latest tablet features front and rear-facing cameras, 8GB of internal storage and an integrated MP3 player. It also includes a child-safe browser.
- VTech InnoTab 3s – VTech's newest offering has a pivoting camera that can face front or rear, a kid-safe browser, the ability to communicate with other InnoTab tablets, as well as to send messages to you on your Android phone or iPhone.
- Fuhu NABI tablet – Fuhu's tablet bills this product as the first full-featured Android tablet for kids. The software allows varying levels of kid-safe protection, limiting younger children to safe apps and browsing while allowing it to be unlocked for a full internet experience for older children and parents.
- Ematic FunTab – The FunTab also runs on Android and features software that allows you to remotely read to your child via a webcam and the internet – a nice feature for parents who work on the road.
In the end, every child and every family is different and there is no single product that's perfect for all of them. The best you can do is to determine how your child will use the tablet and try to find one that will not only be engaging to them today, but also useful down the road.
Norman Fong is CEO and Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that finds high quality products at the best price available. Deals on popular products like tablet computers, including the iPad and Android tablets, can be sent automatically to users.
Thank you to Norman Fong for guest posting here today!