Since their introduction, tablet computers have become an indispensable part of family life. But is it worth buying those cheap tablets for kids?
While a tablet computer can open up a world of learning opportunities for a child, they can also be very pricey. There are a number of less expensive options out there. Before you start looking for cheap tablets for your children, it is essential to understand the features included in tablets designed for kids and what to look for in those features.
Why Buy Cheap Tablets for Kids?
Popular tablets like the Apple iPad mini 4 and the Galaxy Tab S2 have premium specifications. But they also command hefty price tags with both tablets retailing for around $399 MSRP. That is a LOT to spend on a tablet for a child, and just one reason why finding inexpensive tablets for your children is such an appealing alternative.
What do Cheap Tablets for Kids have that Others do not?
Inexpensive tablet alternatives designed specifically with children in mind have many features. Most include parental controls and come pre-loaded with software for children. They also have sturdy construction to withstand the rough use of a rambunctious child.
Cheap tablets for kids with these built-in options are a practical alternative to more pricey tablets. They also cost less to replace if your child breaks it. Another added benefit is that they are less of an investment if your child is ultimately not interested.
Parental controls are essential for any mobile device that a child can access. A suitable control system will come pre-installed and allow parents to monitor, approve, and block children from accessing websites or applications that they should not have.
Age-appropriate applications and games
Kids use different apps than older family members. While the Google Play Store and Apple App Store have a large variety of apps for kids, these apps vary wildly in content and quality. Kids tablets usually come with preinstalled apps that are pre-screened to be age appropriate.
Sturdy construction is essential because no matter how careful a family is, it is almost inevitable that a tablet will get dropped, bumped, or spilled on. It is vital that a tablet be able to withstand the everyday rigors of childhood.
Things to Consider
When buying cheap tablets for kids, there are a few things you need to consider. It is always a good idea to compare different options. Check customer reviews for any tablets you are considering. Ask other parents in your friend groups. Shared experiences are often the best way to determine the quality of a potential purchase.
Parental controls & user profiles
Before giving your child a tablet, one of the most important things you need to check are the parental controls. Parental controls are a huge part of the solution when it comes to keeping your child safe online.
The good thing is that most cheap tablets for kids do have some parental control built in.
Amazon Fire for Kids and the LeapFrog line of tablets both have extensive parental controls included in their installed operating systems.
At its most basic, you want to ensure that the parental control function allows you to block access to any websites you do not want your child to access. An excellent feature to enable will prevent installing applications. This protects your child from malware and otherwise not-child-friendly applications.
Some parental controls also allow you to set a certain amount of time for particular purposes, limiting the time for specific activities. There may be instances where you would limit a child to one hour of media watching or gameplay.
Check to see if the tablet can set individual user profiles where more than one family member uses the tablet. Cheap tablets for kids with this feature can be especially helpful. This assists you to keep the peace when you have children of multiple ages with different preferences and learning levels.
Amazon Fire allows you to choose the age range of your child (Child, Teen, or Adult) which automatically sets access to age-appropriate applications and media. With this feature, it takes much of the guesswork out of what to allow.
Be advised though that these auto-settings are not a replacement for parental supervision and monitoring of online activity. As with everything, they are vulnerable to game designers and web developers who create workaround programs. These malicious programs allow internet content to defeat the safety protocols.
Operating system & apps
The different operating systems that cheap tablets for kids use varies depending on the manufacturer. The operating system determines what type of apps can run on the tablet. While compatible applications are often available for many platforms, the selection might vary from tablet to tablet.
Many cheap tablets for kids will come pre-loaded with kid-friendly apps, and some will even have specialized app stores. For example, LeapFrog Ultimate (MSRP $99.99) tablet from LeapFrog uses its Brio OS and has its app store.
Some companies may use a very customized version of Android. For example, Amazon uses a customized version of the Android OS called Fire OS for its Fire tablet line.
On cheap tablets for kids that use a variant of Android, you may be able to install other Android-based apps not on the tablet’s app store through a process called sideloading though this will vary between different tablets.
Most tablet computers range in size from slightly bigger than a large smartphone at 5” (diagonal) to just slightly smaller than a small laptop at 11” (diagonal). If you are going to buy an inexpensive tablet, consider the age of the kid that will use it.
Younger children with less coordinated motor control might be better off with a medium to large size tablet. These are easier to grip and more forgiving of wayward fingers. The LeapFrog Epic (MSRP $119.99) is a moderately inexpensive tablet for kids. It is targeted for children around preschool age and has a diagonal width of 9” for the display.
Older children with more experience and greater fine motor control can use slightly smaller tablets. The Lenovo Tab 4 8 (MSRP $129.99) which features an 8” display.
Display resolution & color
A significant tradeoff with most cheap tablets for kids is the display resolution. In general, tablets for kids are not going to have HD displays. Where they gain in features designed for young users, they sacrifice in other areas.
For example, the LeapFrog Epic and Amazon Fire Tablet for Kids both have resolutions of 1024 x 600. Customer reviews of various kids tablets also note that the colors are somewhat muted compared to other tablets. As adults, video resolution might play a huge role in our selection of a tablet. Apparently, manufacturers have decided it isn't as important for kids.
It is essential to note screen responsiveness, or how quickly the tablet responds to touch and gestures. Slow screen responsiveness is sure to cause frustration. As children move through a game, they expect to touch the screen and get a reaction. If that reaction lags, they may miss a bonus apple, get knocked off the race track, or other mishaps.
Whenever possible, try out a tablet for yourself in person. If you are shopping online, check product reviews to ensure the screen is responsive enough.
Kids are not always gentle which is why cheap tablets for kids are an excellent alternative to investing in a more expensive tablet. Tablets designed for children are often built to withstand being bumped, dropped, or otherwise roughly handled.
Look for a tablet that comes with a sturdy case and screen protection. The Contixo 7” HD Kids (MSRP $89.99) tablet comes with a durable case and three layer screen protectors. The Amazon Fire Kids Edition (MSRP $99.99 for the 7” variant) also comes with a sturdy case.
Cameras are a feature on just about every tablet computer, and kids tablets are no different. Cheap tablets for kids are more likely to have cameras that have a lower resolution than other tablet cameras. Low light pictures may come out blurry or grainy.
This is another area where sacrifice for the price comes in. Younger children may not care much about photo resolution. However, older children may notice the lower camera quality.
Short battery life is a sure way to breed tantrums. When looking for a tablet, check to see that it has a battery life of at least 6 hours.
Stay away from any cheap tablets for kids where customer reviews warn of short battery life. Note that processor-heavy applications like games or video streaming can affect how long a battery charge will last.
Giving a child a tablet can give them hours of enjoyment through educational games and applications. It can also provide a parent a few minutes of relative calm.
Is it worth it to buy a less expensive tablet for your children? In a word: yes. Cheap tablets for kids are an excellent alternative to more expensive ones. Just make sure that you are buying the right tablet for your family’s needs.