Tablets for children this Christmas

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Would I buy a tablet for my young kids?  Yes, I have – and clearly as a writer who’s series of chapter books is available only for digital reading, I’m going to say that aren’t I?

But would I buy a cheap one?  Well, no.

I think modern tablets do offer even young children a lot.  Mine love taking photos, and they love reading.  They also love videogames, but I’m doing my best to limit that to a pastime rather than an addiction.

Increasingly, homework involves going online – either for research or more recently to use apps for maths and spelling, and it’s important for me to be able to allow them to do those things in a safe environment.

So, after some research, I eventually went for the Amazon Kindle HD for my five and seven year olds.

There are cheaper tablets out there with prices from $40 up.  The problem is that a more basic tablet is not necessarily easier to use.

The corners cut on really cheap tablets generally mean slower response (so a child will be jabbing at the screen for ages before anything happens and they’ll end up loading the wrong application or doing something they don’t want to do).

Cheap tablets also tend to be unable to run all the apps that your kids friends will be using, and they may even make you read books using their own proprietary app.  You’ll want to put the Kindle (or similar) reading app on your kids tablet so that they can have access to the whole world of books – or your tablet will just end up as a games machine.

The other worry parents have with children’s tablets is that they’ll end up doing something you don’t want them to – like wandering unregulated online, spending your money on apps or accidentally emailing their Lego photos to your work colleagues.

That’s a real worry with most grown-up tablets, and one reason I’ve gone for the Kindle Fire HD for my kids is that you can easily set up parental controls which turn the tablet into a completely kid friendly machine very easily.

However, the big reason I’ve bought my kids the Kindle is that it makes it really easy for you to limit the time your children spend on various different activities.  I, for example, have given my kids 1/2 hour of game time per day, but allowed them to read on the kindle as much as they like.  The device automatically shuts them out of games as soon as their time is up, and you can even allow them to earn more play time by spending longer reading.

There are a few limitations, and the system isn’t perfect (for example, it counts time taking photos as “game” time) and I’ll be posting some how-to’s later on, but in the meantime I’d recommend the Kindle fire HD as the best tablet for kids this Christmas.

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