Parents, prepare yourself: Tablets are coming for your children. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, companies have released several new devices built with kids in mind.
New models from companies including Oregon Scientific, Lexibook and Toys "R" Us sell for $150 or less. They have simplified interfaces, and many include more-rugged designs meant to withstand the enthusiasm of youth. In exchange, you give up power and features.
Simplified computing devices for kids have been around for years. LeapFrog ’s LeapPad line, including its latest $99 LeapPad2, hit the market in 1999 and targets users as young as 3 years old. In any toy store, you’ll also see several laptops for youngsters. Tablets, with intuitive touch interfaces, are a natural extension for the kid computing industry.
These children's devices, including Lexibook’s $149 Junior Tablet, Oregon Scientific’s $149 Meep and Toys "R" Us' $149 Tabeo, all have similar specs: 7-inch screens with 800 x 480 resolution, 4 GB of expandable storage, and a front-facing, 0.3 megapixel resolution camera.
Compare this with Google’s $199 Nexus 7: For $50 extra, you get much more power and features. The Nexus 7 offers a 1280 x 800 pixel screen, which means crisper detail and HD video, and a front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera for sharper videos and pictures.
[SEE ALSO: Best Small Tablet: Google Nexus 7]
As with any tablet, what you can do with it matters most. The kid slates come pre-loaded with some apps, and each company has its own app store from which you can download kid-friendly games and educational apps. (Not all Android apps are offered, however.) Each product includes parental controls to limit what children can access. However, full-featured slates such as Barnes & Noble’s $199 Nook now include parental controls, too.
The kids’ models usually come ruggedly built or with a hefty case to help withstand the inevitable fumbles and drops. Of course, many thick cases are available for Apple’s iPad, too, though at an additional cost.
Kid-focused tablets are likely to please younger children most — the ones who have yet to get pulled into Apple’s influence. The simplified interfaces should make them easier for children. But older kids may feel limited by the look and trimmed-down features. Parents need to weigh the usefulness of these limited devices before opting for the security of a kids' tablet.