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Tablets for Kids

Group of tablets mostly standing, iPad flatI wouldn’t consider me and my husband a couple who needs to keep up with the Joneses. We did, however, buy our older son (who’s still in the primary grades) a tablet. Given that Christmas is around the corner now, and other parents may be in the same boat, I thought I’d explain our thoughts about this more.

We have several computers in the house:

  • My desktop, which I use for work, even when the kids are home.
  • My 8-year-old laptop, which will likely die in a year or two.
  • My husband’s laptop, which he takes to work every day.
  • A very old desktop, which we use as a media centre now because it’s that old.

Yet there are several reasons why I wanted each child to have their own:

  • They can have their computer time together. My boys are close in age, so they still like to play together whenever possible and often declare immense, unimaginable boredom if the other is occupied.
  • With both having portable devices, they can play/work in the kitchen while I’m cooking. Later, when they’re watching television or playing, I can work in the library on my computer.

With the new tablet, our older son only has limited access to programs and websites, all designed to help him read and explore. We’ve also got a few German apps on there so he can learn a little German whenever he feels like it.

We settled on an iPad mini 2. Yes, it was expensive, and yes, I got my parents to chip in to help with the costs. But here’s why:

  1. Apple’s operating system is hugely popular, so there are many options for software, online libraries, online bookstores, etc.
  2. Apple will likely be around for the next few years, so there’s no danger of lost support.
  3. With Apple’s current iOS 8 release, they allow family sharing. While this means that each member of your family would need an Apple ID – and I know many people have privacy reservations about that kind of thing – it also means that you can share your music, photos, videos, books, and many other things that you’ve either purchased from or uploaded to Apple’s servers.
  4. Although the iPad doesn’t have a “parental controls” function, it does have restrictions you can set. So you can most definitely limit what programs your child uses, what websites can be visited, and a host of other things. If they attempt to make a purchase through Apple’s app store or iTunes (assuming you’ve allowed those programs), the parents can get a notification to allow or disallow the purchase.
  5. Germany’s online library system is available in Canada via the Goethe Institut and costs only $10/year. Although there are some limitations to material accessed via an Apple device, their e-books and several magazines are all available.
  6. I hate Samsung and Android. I’ve had some huge difficulties getting my Samsung S3 to sync with my Mac, and it crashed an old but updated Windows machine in the house. That was last year. Last week, I tried opening Kies on the Mac to see how it was doing, and it crashed twice. (The Mac was unharmed and kept running, as it usually does.)
  7. From what I’d read, Kindle runs on Android, but they have a history of not being library friendly, and the German online library system could not publish to Kindle. (However, Kindle does have a tablet that is specifically designed for kids and is a bit cheaper than the iPad mini, if you don’t need access to online libraries.)
  8. Nexus tablets cost about as much as Apple, so there was no point in adding a third OS to our house.
  9. We went with the iPad mini 2, despite the fact that the 3 had just been released: The iPad mini 3 is $110 more, and the only difference between the two of them is that it has a fingerprint identity sensor. Since my son’s tablet was going to stay home or in my purse 90% of the time, we didn’t feel the extra function was necessary.
  10. We also chose a wifi-only model. We didn’t want to spend the extra$140 for a cellular tablet PLUS a data plan. I love my kid, but I’d rather spend that money on books, art supplies, after-school lessons, etc.

If you’re considering a tablet for your child, don’t be persuaded just by hype. We honestly do believe that the iPad mini 2 was the best option for us, and my husband and I had spent weeks reading reviews, updating our knowledge of specifications, etc. There are much cheaper options available, and even Toys’R’Us has kid-friendly tablets that run in the $150 range. But because we wanted to share media with the iMac at home, access online libraries, and buy something that could grow with our son for a few years, we went for Apple.

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