“Hey Dad, when can I get a phone?”
“Uh… I’m not sure. Why do you need a phone?”
“I want to play Pokemon GO.”
I know, I know. Pokemon GO is soooo last summer. But my kids are still really into it, so I downloaded it on my phone just for them. It's been fun to play together as a family. Now, my kids are getting a little impatient waiting for me to come home from work each day to play. I knew it was only a matter of time before they popped the question.
Even if your child hasn’t brought it up, it's a pretty safe bet to say he or she wants a phone, tablet, or computer (or all-of-the-above) for Christmas. Maybe you've been waiting until all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are announced to find the best price, but there are still a few other things we should consider for clicking that "Buy Now" button. There's a lot of great opportunities for your kids online, but there's also a lot of real danger.
- What device is best for your kids' needs (and wants)?
- What will they want to use it for?
- How will you protect your kids from cyberbullying, predators, pornography, and all the other nasty stuff out there?
- How will you prevent their new toy from becoming an obsession?
If you need some help answering these questions, here's some tips I've learned as I researched solutions for my own kids.
My kids want a smartphone so badly. The only actual purpose they can give me for having one is playing Pokemon GO, but your kids might be feeling the pressure that "everyone else has one!" If your children are older and you're thinking about getting them a phone, Protect Young Minds has a great blog post about which smartphone is best for kids. The author, Nathaniel Holzman, does a great job of walking through factors like ease of set up, parental controls, and pricing. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but you'll never guess the winner of his head-to-head comparison.
iPADS (AND OTHER TABLETS)
The nice thing about iPads is that the parental controls are the exact same as on an iPhone; they run the same operating system. The same thing goes for Android tablets and Android smartphones. You can check out the same smartphone article from above for details on setting filters and security policies for your kids with either of those operating systems.
Beyond parental controls, the reality is that tablets and phones are more likely to be used on time-wasting games than a laptop. A good kid-friendly laptop has a bit more potential to help them learn things like keyboarding, computer coding, and design - all practical skills that are a lot easier to learn on a laptop than on a phone or tablet.
BestProducts.com has a great list of kid-friendly laptops for every budget. With so many different manufacturers and operating systems, laptops can be difficult to secure with parental controls. If you want to filter or block the content your child can access on a laptop, you might want to look into a service like Blocksi, Mobicip, or NetNanny (the one we use in my house). Without a filtering service, a child with an understanding of browsers and extensions can figure out how to bypass filters and protections on a laptop.
What Will you Buy?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the things you could potentially get your kids this Christmas. If you’d like to dive into more research, it’s as easy as going to Google and searching “best tablet for kids” or “parental controls for a (fill in your device)." Remember that we, as parents, are ultimately responsible to make a wise choice for our family. Our kids may not get 100% of what they want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t what is best for them.
Just make sure they share their best Pokemon GO tips with you along the way.