Before becoming a parent, I never even thought that this kind of question would exist, but as a mother, and as my child grew up to start school and started using technology, even from a young age, me and my husband started having the conversation of what computer we should get our child.
After all, what computer should you get?
My mind started to race with questions. Would a fixed desktop be best? Would a laptop be portable enough? How would we keep an eye on what our kids are up to? Would they need to take it to school? How much memory would it need? How much power would it need? What kind of lifespan is it going to have? And so on. The list of questions we had was endless.
Eventually, we managed to decide on a computer and a way of deciding what kind of computer was best for what time in our child’s life, and today I’m writing this guide to share our process of what we went through, so hopefully you’ll be able to make your decision a little easier.
Let’s get into it.
Desktops or Laptops
First things first; do you want a desktop computer or a laptop? Well, from my experience, a laptop is going to be far better in the long-term because it adds the portable functionality and doesn’t restrict your child and what they’re able to achieve. Maybe it’s just my own personal conditioning from when I was growing up, but I believed that having a desktop would be a more educational experience for my child, but that just doesn’t make sense.
As a parent, you want to try and find a balance between a desktop and a laptop. You want all the features and functions a desktop can offer, but in a laptop’s portability. You’re aiming for the best of both worlds.
I recommend having a dedicated workstation or desk still, so when your child is working on the laptop at this desk, they know it’s work time, but then they can also use the device for watching movies in bed or playing games in their free time.
I really do not recommend buying a Chromebook. Yeah, they’re cheaper and may seem better on a budget, but they rely on the internet for absolutely everything, so pretty useless if you’re not connected, and you won’t be able to install your own applications, such as educational software or recreational games like Minecraft.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to fork out hundreds of dollars just to realize you’re dealing with limited functionality and will then need to think about getting a new one in just a year or so. Plan ahead and go for a decent laptop with enough power and options to do everything your kids are going to want.
Windows or Mac OS?
This question was a big one for me. Back in the day, I used to be a Windows junkie and have had computers running their operating system all the way back when Windows DOS was a thing (Commander Keen and Silverball anyone?) all the way through to Windows 10. However, since becoming a writer and working more on my business projects, I’m now a die-hard Mac user through and through. I wouldn’t even think about going back to Windows really unless I wanted to start video game streaming (a hobby of my husband) or playing AAA games that require a lot of processing power.
So, what options do you have?
Well, before going into it, just like the consideration above, avoid Chromebooks and ChromeOS, as well as any other Android-powered operating systems. They’re just really underpowered for what kids are going to be looking for and are only really good if you’re looking to write text documents and browse the internet.
As a parent, you’re going to want your kid to play videos because they can be educated and good for stimulating their mental prowess. You want them to download the software so they can explore the world virtually, learn new skills, like how to code, or learning a new language, and you want them to have the option to utilize the digital world has to offer.
Now, realistically, you could opt for either Windows or Mac. Both are great, and both are very powerful, but if you want a hard and fast answer, go with Windows. Windows is available on pretty much any device, and you get true freedom to choose the device you want.
macOS, on the other hand, is limited to the Macbook and Mac hardware, which can also be a little more expensive. More software is available on Windows operating systems, and it will be far easier just to download something and install it with it being compatible, so unless you have a personal favorite, go with Windows.
Thinking About Durability
While shopping around, I found it really tempting to try and go for one of those ‘rugged’ looking laptops, but upon further inspection, these really weren’t that great. Of course, the idea is there. Get a rugged laptop with a built-up case, and the chances of it breaking when being dropped or having things spilled on it, which, let’s be honest, is bound to happen at some point, then decrease.
However, many of these rugged laptops are going to be far more expensive than traditional laptops, and since they’re designed for specific uses, such as being used by police who only run a few applications, the functionality on these laptops aren’t great.
Instead, just go for a standard laptop and think about getting a protective case and screen protectors that can minimize the risk of damage. My setup includes a laptop on a laptop stand, and I then bought a connectable USB keyboard and mouse set. This makes the whole setup really easy to use, and you can just disconnect everything when you want to make it portable.
Consider a Touchscreen
Chances are you’ve seen touchscreen devices being used and introduced to more modern computer hardware, and there’s absolutely no denying that we live in an age where touch gestures are everything.
If you have a tablet, an iPad, or even a smartphone, you’ve probably seen how amazingly professional a kid can be at navigating the software. After all, it is meant to be as intuitive as possible. This means when it comes to getting a computer, you’re probably going to want a computer with a touchscreen-enabled display.
Sure, teaching kids how to use a keyboard and mouse properly is still essential for your child’s dexterity, but having a touchscreen will help to make the whole experience so much more interactive.
Consider Your Budget
Right, let’s be real about this.
Chances are that the first computer you get your kids are going to break. You can lay down all the strict rules you want about not running around near the computer or having drinks near the keyboard, but something is going to happen at some point. It’s inevitable.
This means you’re not going to spend $3,000 on an amazing setup that could just end up breaking. I remember when my kids tried to download a video game they wanted and ended up trying to pirate it and downloaded a virus. Of course, we explained why they shouldn’t be doing this, but we had to wipe the entire computer to get the virus out, which isn’t cheap in itself.
So, make sure you’re taking the time to think about your budget and how much you’re willing to spend. To start with, any laptop between the $200 and $500 should be ideal and will give you what you’re looking for.
It is also relevant to ask the question of whether you want a new or used laptop. As a first laptop, getting a used one can be a great way of making sure you’re not spending too much money on something that’s going to probably break at some point.
However, if you get a Mac, for example, you can take out a manufacturer’s warranty or an insurance policy on any device that will replace and repair anything that happens to your laptop. These kinds of insurances only really come with new computers, but they are well worth looking into.
My kid was playing a game one afternoon, and although we enforce a no drinks rule by the computer, this inevitably gets broken from time to time until a drink finally found its way into the keyboard. Fortunately, the device was bought new and insured against accidental damage, so we took it in, got it fixed, and were on our way again by the end of the week!
Think About Specs
Okay, to finish off, we’re going to talk a little about what specs to get. Think about what your child is going to be doing on their computer. Will they be watching movies and playing games? Will they be running applications and learning how to code, compiling said code, and run resource applications? Are they just going to be typing in a text document?
The more you’re going to be doing, the more resources you’re going to need and the higher specs your computer is going to require. So, let’s look at the minimum you’ll want to aim to cover most things.
- An Intel processor with an increasing number of cores the more you want to do
- 4GB of RAM, but 8GB is way better and what I would recommend
- 500GB Hard Drive, which is enough to store a load of files and install software
- Both wired and wireless internet connections for the best of both worlds
- A graphics card for running intensive programs and video games
If you can get these as a bare minimum, you’ll be well on your way to getting your child a working computer that can help them fully take advantage of what the modern age has to offer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kendra Beckley is a lifestyle and parenting blogger and editor at Write My Literature Review. She loves helping families get up to date with what the modern age has to offer and loves helping kids learn about the world!