Back-to-school season is just around the corner. Besides encouraging your kids to work their way through their summer reading list, there’s something else you can do to help get them ready for the new school year: tablet shopping.
With mobile technology playing an increasingly important role in the classroom, you can help your kids start the new year off on the right foot by making sure they have the right tech.
Here’s your guide to shopping for the best tablets for kids:
When beginning the search for back-to-school tech, first consider whether your child needs a tablet or a laptop.
Begin by asking them how they would like to use their tech at school. Then follow up with their teacher to see how tech will be used in the classroom. This will help give you an idea of whether or not your child can get by with a laptop or if they’ll need the more robust capabilities of a laptop.
Generally, a tablet will do the trick for Internet surfing, watching videos, or browsing on social. If your child needs to use more complex software or type on a keyboard for a long time, a laptop will likely be a better bet.
Yes, you can outfit a tablet with a keyboard, mouse, and case to turn it into a de facto laptop—but buying all those accessories can add up in price. If that’s the case, it’s probably cheaper to just buy a laptop in the end.
If you’re ready to go the tablet route, then you have ripe pickings. With dozens of tablets on the market, you have a lot to choose from when shopping for the best kids tablets for back-to-school.
Here’s what to look out for when browsing tablets for kids:
It’s a battle that goes far beyond kids tablets: Android vs Apple. Depending on how loyal you are to the tech you already have, making the choice between Android and Apple can be fairly simple.
Google Android OS, of course, offers you more options. And with a range of manufacturers and devices comes a range of prices. So if you’re shopping for a kid’s tablet on a budget, going Android may be your best bet.
On the other hand, if you’re already committed to an ecosystem of Apple products, setting your kid up with an iPad may be the natural choice for you. An added bonus for parents? Apple comes with built-in Screen Time controls.
Depending on how old your child is, the tablet you pick for them may be in it for the long haul. If that’s the case, going with more storage is always better. For one, it will simply give your child the power to do more, as they can download and retain more apps over the life of their tablet.
Investing in more storage from the get-go also helps strengthen the longevity of your device. With more storage at your fingerprints, you can wait longer before having to buy a new device in a few years.
Again, you’ll want to take into account your child’s age. It seems simple, but smaller hands require a smaller device.
Best practice suggests choosing a tablet with a screen between 7 and 11 inches. If you’re planning on outfitting the tablet with a keyboard to use it like a laptop, you’re better off going with a slightly larger tablet.
Weight is always an important consideration, but it’s not as big of a deal with tablets as it is with laptops. Generally speaking, all tablets will be pretty lightweight, as they are designed for portability. But if your child is young, lighter is always better for toting around in a backpack.
It should go without saying, but durability is one of the most important features to consider when shopping for the best tablets for kids.
Even the most conscious kids are still likely to drop their tablet every now and then, and it’ll likely go through the wringer being tapped on all day and transported to and from school.
Today, many tablets come with reinforced screens to prevent cracking. Even better, many are waterproof or at least water-resistant.
For extra security, it’s also a good idea to buy a robust case to further protect the tablet from spills, drops, and accidents.
While most tech nowadays has relatively good battery life, this is an important thing to consider when picking out a tablet for your child for back-to-school.
Unlike adults, who may work in offices, at home, or even in coffee shops, kids at school likely don’t have much open access to wall outlets. This makes battery life crucial, as they’ll have fewer opportunities to charge up throughout the day.
As you shop for back-to-school tablets with your kids, look for one with a battery life that can last for at least 7 hours. For an added boost, you can also grab a portable, external battery to send along with your kid to school.
Finally, perhaps the most important feature to be on the lookout for when shopping tablets for kids for back-to-school: parental controls.
On a basic level, most tablets give you access to screen time controls and payment protection functions. But depending on the age of your child and how comfortable you are with their time on the Internet, you may be interested in some more oversight.
Other features, for example, give you the power of remote screen access, volume control, and camera control. Keeping your kids safe on the Internet—even when they’re at school—is a never-ending concern, but finding the right tablet with the right features can help you stay on top of it.
Back-to-school season is about more than just new pencils and notebooks. Help your kid start the school year off right with the best tablet to support their learning.
About Dan VanPatten: Dan is a full-time technology writer with interests in gaming, gadgetry, and all things PC tech related. He writes about a variety of topics including technology news, product reviews, and software. His experience stems from years of experience writing & producing content for technology newsletters & publications.