Carl Laron from ConsumerSearch.com
Tablet computers are expected to be hot sellers this holiday season, topping the gift lists for both parents and their kids. At ConsumerSearch.com, we dig pretty deeply into the many choices available — and name the tablets we think are the top picks for most users. When picking a tablet for your son or daughter, however, there are a few extra things you need to think about.
First and foremost is the issue of safety. Tablet computers intended for adults are gateways to the Internet, with all the pluses and minuses that entails. For your child, you will typically want something that doesn’t carry with it the risk of being exposed to something that’s not age appropriate. Most tablets include built-in parental controls, or offer the ability to download apps that do the same thing.
Effectiveness can vary greatly, however, and we’ve seen plenty of tales of clever kids that have found work-arounds — some considering even the presence of parental controls to be a challenge that has to be conquered.
The safest environment, of course, is one that’s built from the ground up to be kid friendly. Some, such as the LeapPad 2, for example, lock out the Internet entirely, aside from their own child-oriented app store.
Others, such as the Nabi 2, offer apps only via a proprietary child-safe store, but also include a browser that gives kids access to sites you pre-select on the full Internet (just make sure to create a password that he or she can’t guess).
Child-oriented tablets also need to be built well enough to stand up to life in a child’s hands. Let’s face it, even adults can be a little careless with their electronic goodies — as countless cracked screens on smart phones and tablets can attest. Kids tablet makers do a pretty good job of ruggedizing their cases by adding outsized bumpers, so it’s all good on the front — for the most part. Keep in mind, however, that even the strongest tablet will be challenged by a direct hit to the screen.
Are there downsides to selecting a child-oriented tablet over a full tablet, such as the Apple iPad or the Google Nexus 7? In many cases, the answer is most definitely yes. Performance is a major concern.
Looking over some of the best-known choices, as we did here, you can see that children’s tablets are usually — though not always — less expensive than ones targeted at adults. Unfortunately, that’s often reflected — and then some — in the hardware. An unresponsive screen and sluggish overall performance can frustrate young ones, especially if they are used to seeing their parents zipping away on their adult tablets. In addition, if you opt for a fully locked-down tablet, you need to be very mindful of its recommended age-range, as there’s nowhere to go with it if your child outgrows its sandbox.
That said, we did find at least one kid-oriented tablet that seems like a winner. That’s the aforementioned Nabi 2. The key is what’s under the hood — the same processor found in the Google Nexus 7. As a result, it performs as well — and in some cases better — than many adult tablets. At around $200, it’s a little more expensive than some kids tablets, but the Nabi 2 comes with lots of free preloaded content, a kids-oriented app store, a child-safe streaming video service and access to the full Internet via a web browser with strong parental controls. The Nabi 2 is drawing lots of kudos from experts and owners; if you want more information, it’s covered in this post at ConsumerSearch.com.
Click on image of individual tablets to view at Amazon.