Laptop & tablets for children

Buying tips for parents

The idea of the static home computer is potentially becoming outdated.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.

Expert Parent Tips For Buying a Device

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 consider how they will be used. Talk to your child about what they’d like to do on it. Also, talk to your child’s teacher about how this kind of technology can support their learning. Finally, ask other families with children of a similar age, what technology has worked best for them.

If you only need to browse the internet, watch videos and access social media 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 coding and design. It’s worth noting that although most school homework sites can be used on both tablets and laptops, the keyboard and higher resolution screen of the latter can make it easier to work.

Protection

All laptops and tablets can have a password, PIN or fingerprint lock specified during set-up. 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.

In addition, to control access to the system in this way you need to consider how to guide your child’s time with the device. If you already have smartphone’s or other computer monitoring systems in the home it’s worth checking that the new device is compatible. Either way, before letting your child loose on the new technology have a conversation with them about safe behaviour online see our Internet Manners top tips for advice on this.

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.

Which operating system for laptops?

If you have decided that a laptop is the best route for your child, you need to consider which operating system to get. There are three main systems: 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. Parents find that children learn fast on technology and become increasingly ambitious so it’s good to get something more powerful if it’s within your budget.

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.

Again, if you already have Apple or Google devices in the home, adding new technology from the same manufacturer is often the simplest route. This enables you to apply the same settings to the tablet as your smartphones.

Tablets and laptops to consider for your child

See 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.

Samsung Tab A

High-end spec for children of all ages thanks to Kids Mode feature

The Samsung Tab A is a good choice for children, especially if paired with a robust carry case to protect it from knocks. It has a bright, super high resolution screen with more pixels than standard HD screens. This makes it easy for children to read and it looks great to watch video or pictures on.

It’s priced from £199.

It has some clever features to make maintenance and use of the tablet easier for families. SideSync lets you check and reply to notifications and messages while using other applications. You can connect to Wi-Fi direct and stream content to your TV. Like other Samsung tech it has the Kids Mode app to keep your child safe and healthy online.

It also has a great camera with autofocus that creates super photos and videos. This, the screen and processing power make it more than capable of a wide range of creative activities whether that’s writing, drawing, learning to code or even editing videos.

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Kurio Smart Tablet

All-in-one tablet which converts into a mini portable computer

Watch our parent blogger Adele and her son Jacob reviewing the Kurio Smart 2 in 1 tablet
The Kurio Smart Tablet is an Android 10-inch tablet that comes equipped with a detachable keyboard and a magnetic protective case to create a portable mini-computer for your tweens or teens to use whether doing homework or playing motions games like ‘Instant Tennis’.

It’s priced from £179.

Like other Kurio tablets, it comes equipped with Kurio Genius Parental Controls software which allows you to set screen time controls on what they do, what apps they can use, switch on ‘blue light filter’ and manage when they can access the tablet.

The software also filters and monitors over 32 billion websites to ensure your child sees age-appropriate content. It comes preloaded with a word processor, presentation tool, spreadsheet and more, and is fully compatible with other Microsoft and Google Docs allowing for children to do all of their school tasks with ease.

Visit Kurio site to find out more

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Kurio Tab Connect

Great starter tablet with curated content and award-winning software


Watch our parent blogger Adele and her son Jacob reviewing the Kurio Tab Connect tablet
Kurio Tab Connect is cheaper option and great first tablet for younger children who are just starting to explore the online world. The Kurio Genius parental software allows you to set time controls, choose the apps you’d like them to use and switch off the tablet remotely from your phone using the Kurio Connect App.

It’s priced from £99.

It also filters, categorises and updates 32 billion websites daily to ensure your child only sees age-appropriate content. You can create up to 8 personalised profiles on the device so the tablet can be used by the whole family and it’s built to withstand wear and tear with its protective shell and fingerprint resistant coating.

It comes pre-loaded with a range of apps such as the motion game ‘Instant Tennis’ and as it is an Android tablet you can choose from an array of apps in the Google Apps store for your child to use.

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Apple iPad mini 4

A small lightweight tablet that can grow with child’s needs

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, but it also 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.

Apple continues to be one of the safest options to ensure the phone is not compromised by viruses or external software. Apple keeps its platform locked down, with all apps first approved by the company before they become available.

The parental control settings in the latest version of the operating system, iOS 12, are easy to navigate and can restrict many of the features to age-specific barriers. In addition, a new Screen Time section in the settings provides a detailed breakdown of every aspect of the phone’s use. You can set bedtimes and limit access to certain applications.

If you pair the iPad Mini with a robust case it becomes a great tablet for youngsters. Add to this the new Screen Time feature and it’s easy to see how they are using it. It’s not the cheapest option but one that will grow with your child as they become more ambitions in their online activity.

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Apple iPad

High-end tablet with dedicated education apps
Apple’s latest larger 9.7 inch 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.

The parental control settings in the latest version of the operating system, iOS 12, are easy to navigate and can restrict many of the features to age-specific barriers. In addition, a new Screen Time section in the settings provides a detailed breakdown of every aspect of the phone’s use. You can set bedtimes and limit access to certain applications.

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.

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ASUS Chromebook C202

Child-friendly laptop to meet needs of older tweens

This is a great option for families who want a proper laptop for their child. This ASUS model offers 180-degree hinge, spill-resistant keyboards, and reinforced rubber wrapped frames that meet the daily rigours and intense usage by children.

It’s designed to be lightweight for children to use with two grips providing better holding points. It also has a good battery that will last up to 10 hours. A nice addition is the built-in HDMI output to send any content to a TV, as well as an SD card reader to import video and photos from a camera. The screen itself is 11.6 inches and anti-glare for easy viewing.

Google Family Link ensures that you can set up your Chromebook for your child to use safely and healthily. This not only shows you how they are using it but enables you to setup screen time limits for different days of the week.
Digital Wellbeing then extends this by uncovering a complete picture of how you use your phone. It offers a daily view of the time spent, how frequently you use apps, and how many notifications you get. This is a great tool to ensure your child (and your wider family) are developing healthy habits with technology.

It costs from £199.

If you are after a proper laptop for your child, this is a great option. Not only the wide range of features but having a spill-proof full-size keyboard makes a really big difference to this device.

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Amazon Fire 7

Offers value for money and access to AI assistant

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, but 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.

A great way to get more control and access to lots more content is via the Kids Unlimited subscription. This offers over 5,000 child-friendly apps, books and much more, all without in-app purchases.

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Amazon Fire HD 7 Kids Edition

Child-friendly tablet with a year access to curated kids media

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.

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Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

Small and mighty tablet with access to curated media and apps

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.

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Vodafone Smart V8

A walled garden tablet made for younger kids

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. All games and apps are sold and provided by VTech’s private servers and the internet browsing options are restricted to age-appropriate content only. It also includes popular collaborations with big brands and characters like PJ Masks and the Disney Channel.

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Amazon Kindle

Starter tablet to make reading more digital

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.

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Supporting resources and guides