Before you set out to buy your child the latest tech upgrade for the holidays, follow these simple steps so you can make the right choice for your family.
There is so much out there for a wide range of ages, abilities and at a variety of price points. Find the right fit for your family by doing some work ahead of any purchase decisions. An Ipad may be at the top of many wish lists but it might not be the right fit for young, messy hands. The good news is there are alternative tablets for just about any age. Consider a LeapFrog or a Nabi for your little tech enthusiast. They are designed specifically for pre-school and school aged kids, with educational and entertaining apps appropriate for their age and developmental stage. Thinking about getting your tween a phone? Kajeet offers a wide-range of cellphones for kids offering varying degrees of features and capabilities, allowing kids freedom while empowering parents to set limits and keep them safe. Of course, your older teens may be eyeing the latest in smartphones. Check out what deals your cellular provider has this season before buying a new phone at full cost.
What do you want to get out of this purchase? What does your child want? Is there a device that fits both? If you want a computer your child can use for school, but your son wants an Ipad for apps and games, consider getting one of the new hybrids like Microsoft’s Surface Pro to meet both needs. Perhaps your kids are begging for the latest gaming system update but you are afraid if you buy it you won’t see them again until spring 2015. Make everyone happy and add a fun game under the tree that you can all play together like Monopoly Family Fun Pack for Xbox One, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U or Disney Infinity with characters for everyone in your house. If you are not quite ready to give your begging child a cellphone but do want to be able to stay in touch, consider a Filip watch with a GPS locator and the ability to call up to 5 pre-approved phone numbers.
Getting your teen a smartphone can be costly well in to next year, so remember to include data plan changes in your cost evaluation. Make sure you’ve adjusted your data and texting plans accordingly. Many cellular providers offer family plans and additional phone lines for a discount. You should explore your options and determine what is best for your needs. Verizon's FamilyBase plan helps parents manage and control their kids phone usage. Sprint and AT&T offer great family value plans as well. You may also want to set up an allowance for app and in-app purchases so you can calculate any added expenditures upfront.
The tech industry has responded to concerns for child safety with parental controls and settings virtually across the board. Gaming systems like PS4, Xbox and Wii have customization options for limiting game playing time, approval of online friend requests and which ESRB-rated games are allowed for each user. There are also parental controls on most operating systems (i.e. Windows and iOS), tablets (i.e. Kindle, Ipad), cellphones (Samsung, iPhone), and browsers (Google, Yahoo!). Research the parental control options and settings across platforms to make sure you are able to set the boundaries effectively in your household.
Download and print our tools so you can talk with your child about your expectations for their new digital device. Include our Online Safety Contract Cards with your gift to get the conversation started and agree to tech limits and rules right out of the box.
Hopefully, these tips will arm you with the information you need to make the best tech choices for your family this gift giving season. Good luck with all your holiday shopping!
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.