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Kids and Technology (Part 2)

Tech Talker and Mighty Mommy get together to provide helpful advice on age-appropriate electronics for 21st century kids.

By
Eric Escobar,
April 24, 2013
Episode #074

 

In Part 1 of this series, Mighty Mommy and I discussed the many different gadgets available to kids today. We talked about how to choose game consoles, cell phones, and MP3 music players for your kids. Make sure to check out Part 1 of this series for more info on making age-appropriate choices for your kids.

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This week, we’re going to look at 4 more types of electronics that your kids are likely to ask for: computers, tablets, eReaders, and digital cameras.

How to decide which of these pricey items are appropriate for your kids? Let’s find out.

Computers

Mighty Mommy:   Let’s face it, even kids in kindergarten are exposed to computers these days. While many families have a home computer for everyone’s use, many kids either have their own desktops and laptops, or would certainly like one. Suggestions, Eric, for how a parent can choose which computer makes the most sense for their school age kids?

Tech Talker: This is a tricky situation Cheryl. There are many programs out there that will let you snoop on what your child is doing on their computer. I don’t recommend these, but in some extreme circumstances they might be warranted.

I found the best solution for a household full of laptops and desktops is to create two distinct networks. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Most new routers will allow for a “guest” network and this will be the one for your children’s computers. You can set this guest network to have restrictions on certain types of websites, on the time of day when they can use the internet, and much more. This allows you the freedom to do whatever you need on your devices, but limited connectivity on your child’s. You can check out more about how to make your router work for you in my series on improving the signal strength of your home wireless network.

Tablets

Mighty Mommy: Tablets are all the rage these days. Keeping in mind that these expensive tools will be used for a combination of entertainment and education, what’s your take on iPads and tablets, Eric?

Tech Talker: iPads are pretty awesome. However, given their steep price, I don’t really see the benefit that an iPad would provide a child that they couldn’t get with an inexpensive laptop. This strategy has an unexpected bonus: A great way to teach children about computers is to get them something that isn’t as easy to use as an iPad.

For instance, my young cousin wanted an iPad, but the cost was prohibitive. He wasn’t going to be getting a laptop until 7th grade, so I decided to give him one of my older laptops. It had a free Linux operating system (which has that black and white command line interface that terrifies most people). Within a few days, he was well versed in command line.

Now, this may not be the case for every kid, but if yours is technically inclined it might just be worth pushing them a little bit. Now that my cousin is familiar with command line, he may develop an aptitude for programming and computers that he wouldn’t have discovered with an easy-to-use iDevice. I’m not saying that there is never a time or place for an iPad, but not having one may be an opportunity to learn by doing.

Kindle and Nook

Mighty Mommy:   These portable electronic devices take reading to a digital level. The steadfast bookworms in my family have been requesting them for the past few years, and now it seems as though both the Kindle and Nook have many more capabilities than just being electronic book readers. Any tips or pros and cons on purchasing either, Eric?

Tech Talker: I really like the idea of the Kindle and Nook. I personally listen to many books and news (shout out for audible). The kindle fire is a great alternative for anyone not wanting to spend the big bucks for an iPad, and it also gives you access to Amazon’s huge content library.

The nook and the kindle are pretty similar, but in my honest opinion I’m partial towards the older models of these devices which have that black and white display. No matter the form factor, I can’t argue with any device that can hold a library and weighs only a few ounces! I like that these devices promote reading. However, as these devices become more like tablets they may have the ability to support games (such as the Kindle Fire). As a parent you’ll just want to make sure your child isn’t playing angry birds when they should be reading!

Digital Cameras

Mighty Mommy:   Most cell phones have digital cameras built right in, and with social media on fire, today’s youth live in an instant world of point, click, and upload their every move. Eric, do you have any suggestions on what a parent should look for when purchasing a digital camera for their child?

Tech Talker: When I was in middle school, one of the best Christmas presents I received was a video camera that could also take pictures. This was pretty new at the time, when there was nothing like today’s smartphones that can create high resolution videos and images instantly.

I recorded hours of footage at school, during sports activities, of my friends and family. To this day, that is still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received because now I have all of those memories from my perspective at that age. I couldn’t appreciate it at the time, but now it is an amazing time capsule.

As long as you discuss with your child when it is and isn’t appropriate to take pictures, I would highly recommend every kid having a simple point and shoot digital camera, even for those who are in elementary school. They’re a great way to capture the world through the eyes of your children.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. Also, check out Mighty Mommy’s tips for practical parenting. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Girl with Laptop, Twins with Tablets and Boy with Camera images from Shutterstock

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