laptops & tablets for children
The idea of the static home computer is potentially becoming outdated. The use of tablets is rising and the need for portable connectivity means that more homes now choose laptops.
Buying the right devices for your family really depends on usage and whether they’re required purely for entertainment or for homework and projects too. Understanding the different operating systems and the levels of built in security can help you make the right decision.
Five things you should consider when buying a laptop or a tablet
Should I buy a tablet or laptop?
The easiest way to decide which to buy is to look at what you want to do with them. Do you or your children just need something to browse the internet on and access social media, even take on holiday with you? Then a tablet is your best bet. A laptop is recommended for those who need to sit at a keyboard for longer periods or require more complex software such as image editors.
Which operating system for laptops?
There are three main operating systems for laptops: Windows, Mac OS X, and Chrome OS and prices can vary according to what you need the laptop to do. If you’re web surfing and doing children’s homework a budget laptop running Chrome OS will cost around £200. Those looking to do photo or video editing are likely to need something more powerful. A top of the range laptop running Windows or Mac OS X can cost £1,500 or more.
All laptops and tablets can be password, PIN or fingerprint protected during the set-up phase. That means that nobody but you can unlock them to get to the ‘homescreen’ or access any of your family’s personal details or files without your entry requirements.
Which operating system for tablets?
Different tablets use different operating systems, of which Android and Apple are the most common. Google’s Android OS is found on a range of tablets from multiple manufacturers at a range of different prices, specifically at the budget end. Apple’s iPad is typically more expensive, however offers fantastic usability. Both have dedicated app stores to allow you to buy apps direct via the tablet.
Some tablets and laptops have what is known as dual-band Wi-Fi, which means they can connect to compatible wireless routers on different bands. Modern routers will often have two antennas, one for 2.4GHz and one for 5GHz with the latter being a more stable connection capable of faster speeds and further reach. You would ideally want to connect to that one, especially for portable devices.
What about an eBook reader?
If you don’t feel your child needs the connectivity offered by a tablet, but would like to give them a tablet experience for reading and study, an eBook reader looks like a tablet, but is technically different. It’s like a digital book, specifically designed for downloading and reading books on. Their e-paper screens are not backlit in the same way as a tablet, monitor or TV screen, which makes them easier on the eyes over long periods.
The range of Amazon Kindle devices are the best known eBook readers, with eBooks available from the Kindle Store, while Nook and Kobo also offer their own devices and stores.
However, just like in a bookstore with real books, eBooks don’t come with age ratings. Therefore some mature content is available, but it’s possible to require that a password be entered prior to Kindle Store downloads, as an added layer of parental control. Speak to your children about which books they would like to read or for young children, focus attention on the Children’s eBooks section.
Tablets and laptops to consider for your child
Here are some reviews of selected laptops and tablets that are currently available with pointers on the age they’re appropriate for, their level of functionality and the safety features they offer.
We’ve reviewed the following (in ascending age-appropriate order):
Apple hasn’t refreshed its iPad mini for a while but it’s easy to see why; the current iPad mini 4 is still as good as it ever was.
Not only is it light to hold for long periods, it runs every app as well as the larger, more recent models in Apple’s line-up. It’s pricey, but there are few tablets out there as simple to pick up and use.
It’s priced from £399.
Parental controls, like all Apple’s products, aren’t as good as they could be, although you can restrict content by age rating and lock in-app purchases so children can’t rack up huge bills.
The best way to see the new iPad mini 4 is as a great tablet for you personally, being a lot more portable than other iPads in the range, yet comes with some great apps for the little ones in your life.
BApple’s latest larger iPad model not sports a refreshed processor, ensuring it is smooth and fast in operation, it also supports Pencil – Apple’s own stylus device that’s an optional extra.
This means that children can draw and interact with the iPad as they would a normal pad of paper. There are also dedicated education apps coming for the iPad, including some for teachers to help shape digital curriculum ideas and tasks.
Available from £319.
and other dedicated features are only available through apps. However, iOS is one of the simplest operating systems to use and children will love the extra screen size afforded by the 9.7-inch display. It’s also, remarkably cheaper than the smaller iPad mini 4.
Amazon Fire 7
Cheap as chips tablet for browsing, reading and watching video
The Fire 7 is not the most powerful tablet on the market but it is one of the best value, that’s for sure. It gives you access to apps, your Kindle books, Amazon Video and other video services – such as Netflix – and much more.
All for around £50. There is also Alexa voice assistant support, so not only can you ask Alexa questions and control smart home devices, you can also call Echo devices around the home..
It is available for £49.99.
Amazon’s parental controls are generally excellent, with the ability to set different options for different profiles.
That means each family member can have their own profile which will only show the content that is appropriate to them. You can also limit screen time and even subscribe to Kids Unlimited, which contains over 5,000 child-friendly apps, books and much more, all without in-app purchases.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition
Comes with protective case and break-free guarantee
The Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet is essentially the exact same device as the Fire 7 also reviewed. However, it comes with a bright blue, pink or yellow protective case that ensures it won’t smash when dropped by smaller hands.
And even if it does break, you get a two-year, no-quibble guarantee from Amazon. The online store will replace it free of charge within the first two years, no matter how it got damaged.
You can snag one for £99.99 although it’s always worth looking out for a bargain in the many Amazon sales.
Like the 7-inch Amazon Fire 7, you can set up a child’s profile with Kids Unlimited, with only appropriate games, books and videos available to play, read or view. The big difference is that you get a year’s free access to it with the Kids Edition. The parental controls are also similarly excellent and easy to implement.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition
An upgrade on the Fire 7 with an 8-inch HD screen
Slightly more expensive but also more powerful, the Fire HD 8 has a larger 8-inch screen with a better, HD resolution to ensure images and video are sharper. It also has more internal storage than the Fire 7 version, with 32GB on offer over the 16GB on the smaller device.
Both though can be upgraded further through a microSD card. The same protective bumper choices and no-quibble guarantee are available.
The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition costs £129.99.
As with all Amazon Fire tablets, the parental controls on the HD 8 Kids Edition are excellent. You can set different restrictions for each member of the family.
And as it is essentially the same as the Fire HD 8 also available, you can use it yourself for video watching, reading eBooks and the like. The Kids Unlimited subscription service also comes for free for a year on here too.
Apart from Amazon’s offerings, which are effectively rebadged grown-up tablets, there are few devices aimed solely at young children.
VTech’s tablets, however, come from a toy angle and serve up a walled-garden suite of apps and games, plus a built-in camera and internet browser that is designed for ages three to nine.
You can pick one up for around £100.
Because the VTech system is proprietary, you cannot install external apps or software on the InnoTab Max so it is as secure for young eyes as they come.
ll games and apps are sold and provided by VTech’s private servers and the internet browsing options are restricted to age-appropriate content only.
If you’re not particularly after a tablet for your child, you might consider an eBook reader. And there are none with greater staying power and book choice than the Kindles.
The standard model is still an excellent choice if you want to encourage children to read. It’s cheap, light to hold and has a great 6-inch black and white screen. There are also hundreds of thousands of kids books to choose from.
The Amazon Kindle costs £59.99.
Not only do you get the ultimate choice of what your child reads through the Kindle, with book downloads locked to your Amazon account, there is a Kindle for Kids feature installed.
That gives you the ability to create personalised profiles for children and set them reading goal, for which they receive achievement badges. You can also see the total time spent reading, number of words looked up and so much more.