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9 Things to Consider When Buying Your Child Their First Digital Device

By: Tech Savvy Mama

There is no shortage of digital devices to consider when it’s time to take the leap to buy your child their first laptop or tablet but if you’re undecided about what to purchase, it can be easy to be overwhelmed. Before you set foot in a store or start shopping online, pause and think about who you’re buying the machine for and how they’re planning to use it. This strategy will help you better navigate the dizzying list of numbers and abbreviations that come with product specifications so you don’t second-guess your purchase. For added reassurance, consider these factors when shopping for a machine that your child can use for a number of years.

Determine How it Will Be Used

While multitasking parents require a larger screen, more memory, and a faster processor, a first device doesn’t necessarily need to have all the bells and whistles. Take some time to talk to your child about how they use computers in school, the kinds of things they like doing on the family computer, and think ahead a couple of years to how they might be using the machine as they get older. Consider what type of machine your child uses at school and how the at-home experience can best mirror what they’re using in the classroom to provide ease of use...

The Age of Your Child

Even though technology changes quickly, most parents expect their child to be able to use their investment for at least a couple years. A tablet, laptop, or 2-in-1 machine for a younger child might be budget-driven, especially if the technology will evolve faster than they grow. Chances are you’ll be upgrading their machine in a couple of years as their needs change and technology gets better; so rather than investing in the best, one that will fit their needs now will probably be a fine choice.

If you’re purchasing a device for a middle or high schooler, sit down and figure out what tasks they need to be doing and how a new machine can help them be more productive. Often times,older kids need to be able to access web-based education portals to complete required reading, watch videos that support classroom learning, collaborate with classmates, submit assignments, and communicate with teachers.

If you’re buying your high school aged student their first computer, look ahead to the college years and factor the life of the device into your purchasing decision, especially if they’ll need an upgrade when they head off to undergrad life.

Budget

Budget-conscious families might look primarily at price, especially when buying a first device for a child, but the old adage “you get what you pay for” is definitely true in the world of devices. Before you buy a laptop just because it seems too inexpensive to be a good quality machine, take a closer look because there are ways to get a great deal on high quality machines with all the bells and whistles.

Current year models are always more expensive than previous years’ so take a look at last year’s models to score a great machine at a better price. It’s also a good idea to consider refurbished products if you’re shopping online. Many times refurbished products come with the same warranty that retailers and brands will provide with brand new machines. When shopping at brick and mortar stores, you might also want to consider floor models as long as they also come with the same warranty as something brand new.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to pricing is that if a machine seems too good to be true, it probably is. Pay attention to processor speed, amount of memory, and the size of a hard drive and if it seems like the device can handle the workload that your child might subject it to over the next few years, then it might be well worth the price.

Type of Machine

Laptop or tablet? These days you don’t have to decide thanks to hybrid machines that are the perfect blend of laptop and tablet. Products like the Acer Aspire Switch 10E and Aspire Switch 11 feature a tablet and a keyboard that attaches and detaches with a snap hinge. This allows the tablet to be used by itself for maximum portability or with the keyboard for added productivity— at an affordable price that is perfect for elementary-aged students.

Speed of the Processor

If you notice when your laptop or tablet is slow, chances are your child will too, and this can be a source of frustration. While you may skimp on other features, having a fast processor will allow your child to access the applications and content they want quickly. Look for devices that feature processors made by trusted names in the computing industry to ensure that the product you’re buying will keep up with your child.

Amount of Memory

Listed in the specs, you’ll see RAM, or Random Access Memory, high-speed memory that computer programs use to store the current state of what you are working on, whether it’s writing a report, doing research that requires your child to have 10 different browser tabs open at once, or editing a video. If your child tends to multi-task and has lots of things open at once, they’ll need a machine with more RAM.

You should not purchase a machine with less than 8 GB, unless it’s an ultra-portable tablet device. If it’s going to be your workhorse machine and you want to manipulate lots of photos or edit video, you should get a machine with 16GB of RAM. Machines with 4 or 6 GB of RAM will function, but when a machine runs out of RAM, it temporarily stores things on the hard drive which slows things down dramatically.

Size of the Hard Drive

The hard drive is quite literally the part of the computer that stores all your stuff. All of those MP3s, photos, word processing documents, spreadsheets, and old emails live on your hard drive. Traditional hard drives are larger and cheaper, and you will find that most laptops have adequate storage for almost everyone. Expect to find laptops with 256GB or greater of storage using a traditional hard drive. Photos and videos take up a lot of space on a hard drive,so look for a machine that has a slot to insert a memory card for added storage.

Durability

As adults, we put our gadgets through their paces each and every day. And so do our kids. Sometimes our devices survive the bumps and bruises of daily use without battle scars but we also know that a chipped corner, cracked screen, or broken keyboard is just part of life. Extended warranties are always available but rather than spending extra money for an insurance policy, consider using that money towards a product that is more durable and features Corning® Gorilla® Glass

Gorilla Glass is the toughest cover glass on the market and is featured on 13 Acer products,including tablets and notebook computers. It enables today's tablets and PCs to be sleek while providing exceptional damage resistance to the scratches and bumps of everyday use. Gorilla Glass is sensitive enough for today's most sophisticated touch applications yet it’s also easy-to-clean thanks to a special coating that makes it easy to wipe fingerprints off screens constantly touched by small fingers.

Size

Who you’re purchasing the computer for and how they’re using it can help you decide how big of a laptop, tablet, or 2-in-1 device to get. An elementary-aged child who is going to be using the device at home and on trips doesn’t need the smallest and most portable device. On the other hand, high school students who need to take their device to the library, to and from school, or to friends’ houses to study would appreciate having a smaller and more portable machine that is easier to travel with, since they’re also likely to be carrying a backpack full of books.

Buying your child their first computer doesn’t have to be difficult when you take the time to better understand their needs, assess how those needs fit in with the family budget, and research before making a decision. This helps narrow the field of choices considerably so you can look more closely at product specifications to find the machine that’s right for them and maximize your investment.

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About the author:
Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mama

Leticia is the founder of TechSavvyMama.com, an award-winning site where she incorporates her experience as a parent and background as an educator to provide useful advice for families about the technology tools that have become a part of their lives. She also shares her expertise as a educational consultant, columnist, freelance writer, media personality, and speaker. Leticia lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband, two children, enthusiastic Yellow Labrador, and three mostly free-range hens. Follow Leticia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @TechSavvyMama.