Are Tablet Computers Good For Kids?
Kids are great mimics. They love to imitate each other and adults, so when they see mom and dad swiping away on their smartphones and tablet computers, it’s only natural that they will want to get in on the act.
Tablet computers make great gifts for kids. They help them to play at “grown-ups” – and they can stimulate their imagination, aid their creativity and be very educational into the bargain.
The touch screen interface is something that even very young children seem to pick up easily. Kids who are far too young to sit at a QWERTY keyboard will quite happily prod, poke, swipe and tap away at tablet computers and smartphones.
There are a wide variety of games, software, books and videos available for kids, all of which can be easily accessed using a tablet computer.
So, yes – tablet computers are a great learning toy for kids. You just need to choose the right one for your child.
Which Is The Best Type of Tablet Computer For Kids?
When it comes to choosing the type of tablet computer for kids, there are two basic options:
- Choose a tablet computer that is specially designed for kids. Examples include the LeapFrog LeapPad kid’s tablet and the VTech Innotech.
- Choose a standard tablet computer and adapt it to suit your child’s needs.
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one is best for you and your child will depend on a number of factors, including the age of the child, how tech savvy you are and how tech savvy the child in question is (probably a lot more than you think).
Here’s a brief summary of the key advantages and disadvantages.
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Keep reading for more details.
Specially Designed Tablet Computers For Children
There are several specially designed tablet computers for children, the two best known probably being the LeapPad and VTech offerings. However, there are plenty of others.
The advantage with going down the “toddler tablet” route is that the tablet is set up for your kid right out of the box. You can be sure that your child won’t be able to access any internet sites that are unsuitable and that all content supplied will be age appropriate.
You will get instant access to a library of videos, books, games and software – all guaranteed to be suitable for young children. And, taking due cognizance of the fact that whoever came up with the phrase “kid-proof” obviously has no children of their own, these play tablets will (probably) be rugged enough to withstand the inevitable mistreatment that only the most adorable little angels seem capable of dishing out.
The downsides of this approach are the facts that your child may outgrow the tablet – and sooner than you think – and that you will be tied to the manufacturer’s library of games, videos, books etc.
You may also find that the available content is more expensive than more flexible apps and games available on the web. Of course, you may be happy to pay a little extra, secure in the knowledge that anything you load onto your child’s tablet has been reviewed and selected by a panel of child psychologists and educationalists.
In the end, being locked into the manufacturer’s library is not all that different to what Apple and Amazon try to with their iPads and Kindles. However, there is quite a bit more scope for shopping around with a “standard” tablet computer.
Here’s a short video that shows the key points of the LeapFrog LeapPad – one of the best know children’s tablet computers:
Using A Standard Tablet Computer For Kids
The very idea of handing over your precious iPad to your toddler is probably enough to bring you out in a cold sweat. Getting it back covered in strawberry jam and yoghurt is probably the best you can hope for, with a cracked screen or complete non-functionality being just as likely.
However, you can get rugged covers for tablet computers which, whilst not kid proof (see my earlier comments), will increase the survivability factor exponentially.
And of course, nobody’s suggesting giving your kid(s) your tablet. An entry level standard tablet will be perfectly adequate for your kid’s needs.
You can pick up very decent entry level tablets for as little as $50 – e.g. the Kindle Fire 7” version – these days. These may have a little less screen real estate and processor speed than top of the range models, but smaller physical size is probably a bonus for little hands – and processor speed won’t be too much of a concern, not in the early years at least.
In all probability, you’ll pay less for an entry level standard tablet plus a rugged cover to go with it than you would for a dedicated, specially designed children’s tablet.
You’ll have full access to all of the apps, games, videos and books available online, and when your child ages a little, they won’t be quite so dismissive about having a “baby tablet”.
The downside to this approach is the fact that you are going to have to set up the tablet’s parental controls and vet any content that goes on it. This isn’t a Herculean task. Parental controls are very simple to configure on most tablets these days.
Check out this short video to see how quick and easy it is to set up your iPad to be safe for kids to use:
You can set up usage limits, restrict access to approved sites on the internet (or turn off internet access altogether), have the tablet turn off at bedtime, control content etc. It’s perfectly safe, it doesn’t take long and it’s easier than you might imagine.
In terms of content, there are plenty of places where you can find great content for kids. Sometimes (often) it’s even free!
Choosing The Best Type Of Tablet Computer For Children
Personally, I think that kids under the age of 5 are probably best with a dedicated child’s tablet. Older than that and you’re probably best to go with a standard tablet. You can choose an entry level model – or maybe they can just inherit your old tablet, probably with the addition of a rugged case, the next time you upgrade.
A good alternative, which might offer the best of both worlds is the Kindle Fire “Kids Edition”. This is a standard 7″ tablet, which comes in a special rugged case. You can choose from blue, pink, or the more gender agnostic lime green.
Parental controls are simple to set up and you get free access to 10,000 books, educational apps, TV shows, movies and games for one year through the Amazon Free Time package, which is included in the price.
However, the really nice thing is that it comes with a 2 year, “no questions asked”, guarantee, so that if your little angel hurls it down the stairs or tries to flush it down the toilet, you can return it to Amazon and get a replacement. That has got to be an attractive feature for many parents.
You wonder why more toy manufacturers don’t offer that kind of guarantee. Oh wait. Right.