Kids are surrounded by all sorts of screens – TVs, phones, tablets. These devices are part of their daily lives. Computers are even found in classrooms as soon as kindergarten. And with Stay at Home orders making remote learning imperative the question of when to get your kid a laptop may seem obvious. Here are some options to consider.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends no screen time (tv, phone, tablet, etc.) for kids under two and limiting total screen time to one hour per day for kids ages two to five. But after that? Factors to consider include the child’s age, development, interests, plus your budget.
Although preschoolers can use software to follow storylines or solve puzzles, they typically aren’t able to manage the complexities of a mouse and keyboard until they’re four or five years old. As a result, most parents provide tablets for younger kids.
Eventually, a laptop does make sense. For some children, this could be as early as age five, whereas others can easily wait until nearing high school. It all comes down to how much a computer is being used at school, if your child is interested in the mechanics of technology (either the hardware or software), and what your budget allows.
For Elementary School-Aged Techies
Does your elementary-school child light up when learning how things work? You may want to consider one of these:
The KANO Operating System, running on a Raspberry Pi 3, guides your child through actually building the machine. Once built, they can use it like any other laptop, and can even learn to code with Scratch. Retail price: $279.99
This Linux-based system running on a 14” ASUS E406MA invites your child to learn programming with games and quests that encourage programming skills by hacking to win. Ad-free, virus-resistant and with built-in parental controls, this system includes Chrome, Calculator, Skype, Office Suite, Scratch, Spotify, Steam and more. Retail price: $299.99.
For Tweens and Early Teens
Once your child’s education regularly incorporates computers, it makes sense to provide a laptop. A few items to remember — these are still kids, and “going rugged” makes sense. Experts recommend buying a laptop that uses the same platform as the rest of your technology (Mac or Windows).
Chromebook is another option. These browser-based machines have Solid State Hard Drives (SSD), parental controls, no ability to download malicious software and most convert to a tablet.
Following are some top picks:
This is a much more robust machine and is ideal for the increasingly complex needs of older kids. Ruggedness with a luxury feel, the Acer Chromebook 15 comes with a solid-state hard drive. Retail price: $399.00.
The price ($199.99), USB-C port and lack of bloatware make this Windows 10-based machine a good option for kids. Note, the IdeaPad 120S isn’t as rugged as others on the list and has a low-res screen.
You read that right. The 2015 MacBook Air is still available and just as efficient and durable as the current model at a much more appealing price — $899.99. This is a great option for Mac families.
When to Get Your Kid a Laptop: Sources
American Academy of Pediatrics: Media and Children Communication Toolkit
Tom’s Hardware: What’s the Right Age to Introduce Your Kids to Computers
Tech Radar: Best laptops for kids 2019: the top laptops for kids in elementary school and beyond
Live About: Introducing Your Child to Computers and the Internet