What to Consider Before Buying Tech for Your Child

By Tracey Dowdy

It seems like shiny new tech is on everyone’s wish list this time of year but before you spend your hard earned dollars on the latest and greatest gadget, consider these questions to ensure you’re making the best choices for your family.

  • Have they shown any interest in technology? Sometimes our desire to make sure our kids don’t fall behind gets in the way of our better judgment. If your child would rather play with Lego on the family room floor than build a virtual world, don’t spend a lot of money on Lego video games.
  • Can the device do more than one thing? eReaders are great but if your child also plans to listen to music, they’re not the best choice. Check out the specs to see what the device can do.
  • Will you need to buy accessories? The purchase price of the initial device may be within your budget but if it requires additional accessories like headphones or controllers, the cost may be beyond what you’re expecting or willing to spend.
  • Does the device have parental controls? Ask any parent who’s suddenly found $100 in iTunes charges when their child “accidentally” made in-app purchases and they’ll tell you all about the importance of parental controls. Depending on your child’s maturity level and the device you’ve chosen, you may want to consider choosing a device that lets you restrict internet access, block questionable content or allows you to block unauthorized purchases.
  • Is it durable? The price point and capabilities of a device are irrelevant if it can’t hold up to the wear and tear your child will subject it to.
  • Is it right for my child’s needs? If your child has limited motor skills devices with tiny keypads or small controllers may not be the best option. Consider their developmental level and make your choices from there. Also, make sure the device or games they’re asking for are age appropriate – that includes content as well as capabilities.
  • Is it educational? If you’re looking for a device that will boost reading or math skills, a device that offers internet access or games may be distracting. Keep in mind there are countless educational games and apps available so it’s not necessary to limit yourself to one-purpose devices.
  • Have you thought through boundaries and time limits? Whether it’s setting limits on the amount of time you’ll allow on the device each day, the amount you’re willing to spend on things like in-app purchases or how much freedom you’ll allow them to explore the internet, you’ll need to think things through and have a conversation to establish those boundaries from the beginning.
  • Is your child ready? Are they responsible? Consider how involved you want to be in your child’s tech experience. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, some devices may offer too much freedom, others not enough. You’ll also need to have a conversation about what happens if the device breaks. Who will pay for repairs or replacement?
  • Are you ready? Depending on the device you’ve chosen and the interest of your child, you may need to have conversations about internet safety and issues like cyberbullying. If the device will be used for social media, there’s a whole world that’s opened up and it warrants a conversation to ensure your child is ready.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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