How to pick the right tablet for your kids

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- One of the most requested gifts for the holidays is a tablet computer, but trying to figure out which one has become a complex maze of decisions.

The undisputed king of tablets is still Apple’s iPad line, but for younger children the expense and the fragile design is generally not a good fit.

Many companies have created inexpensive tablets for children 9 or younger that focus on a rugged design, educational apps and parental controls.

Of all of the companies that have focused in this space, Leap Frog has the most developed suite of educator-approved apps and games and its latest device -- the LeapPad Ultra -- takes the hardware to a new level.

With a 7-inch display, WiFi access to safe Web content, front- and rear-facing cameras and upgraded processors, it’s best suited for kids from 4 to 9. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive device ($149) that won’t allow your child to end up on adult-oriented internet sites, this may be for you.

The downside to going with a proprietary platform like this is that you’re limited to the 800+ apps and the average cost of each app can range from $6 to $25. Your child will eventually outgrow the apps and the device, so you’ll have to start all over again at some point.

If you’re child is already used to using your smartphone or tablet, you’ll need something with a little more horsepower or they’ll get bored quickly.

Amazon’s line of Kindle Fire tablets offers both a low price (starting at $139) and all the content your child will need through adulthood.

Amazon’s library of apps, games, movies, books and music is extensive and the parental controls give you complete control over what your child can access and how much time they spend on it.
It’s critical that you include a solid case for the tablet depending upon the age of your child. 

If you have access to an older iPad that’s been deemed too slow for an adult, you can help make it child friendly with the iGuy rubberized casing from Speck.

For older kids, buying an older generation iPad, iPad mini, Nexus or Galaxy Tab or Kindle Fire can be a great way to save money.  If you’re not ready to spend the big bucks, buying the previous generation will provide them with plenty of performance and leave money in the budget to protect the device.

One of the best protection systems I’ve used is adding an extra layer of glass to the tablet to help  prevent the expensive broken screen syndrome. The folks at MacMediaInc have a series of cases for iPads called JucePeel that combine a sleek case with an extra layer of glass.

If your child is older and heading off the college, Microsoft’s Surface tablets combine the productivity of a laptop with a tablet in one device so you won’t have to buy two devices. 

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll find really good deals on the first generation Surface RT from various office-supply and electronic retailers

Ken Colburn, the original Data Doctor, is the founder/CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services & Data Forensics labs.

Host of the award-winning Data Doctors Radio Program


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