[This is an update to my article from 2012 – somehow I missed last year!]
Choosing a new tablet for the kids this holiday season might seem overwhelming. There are so many choices when deciding on a tablet – 5 different offerings alone from Apple! Here are some tips and suggestions for parents looking for family friendly, affordable tablets that offer parents controls.
This year, I read up on the following tablets. For a somewhat equal comparison, I decided to focus on 6 to 7 inch models that offer parental control features.
Here’s my roundup of the best tablets for kids and families for 2014:
- iPad Mini
- Kindle Fire HD 6 or 7
- Kindle Fire HD Kids
- Kurio XTREME
- Samsung Galaxy Tab® 3 7.0 Kids
Here’s what to keep in mind when out shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, December, or beyond. Consider the following questions when deciding which tablet is the best fit. Check out the quick comparison chart at the end of the page as well.
Who will be using the tablet?
Think about who will be using the device (one child, more than one, the entire family). If the tablet will be shared by family members, take a look at the Kindle Fire and Kurio models. Both offer the ability to set up accounts for each member of the family, and then add restrictions individually on each profile. I like how the Kindle FreeTime parental controls let you specify reading time. For example you can allow unlimited time in the Books app but restrict the time per day on games, video and web.
How old are your kids? More tablets are being designed for younger children this year as compared to my last review. (I’m guessing parents are tired of the kids hijacking their devices want to give them something of their own!) I’ve included three options that come with a bumper, suitable for younger children’s hands, and to prevent damage if dropped. Tweens and teens will probably scoff at anything designed “for kids”, so the iPad mini or Kindle Fire might be the best for that age group. For Android fans, the Galaxy Tab of course has several “non-kid” versions.
What technologies does your family already use?
Consider your existing devices, phones, and computers – if you’re using a Mac and have iPhones, you may feel more comfortable with an interface you already use. Maybe an iPad mini would be a good fit. With iOS8, you can set up family sharing between devices, and now kids under 13 can have their own Apple ID. Sometimes staying within the same “ecosystem” means less of a learning curve and you can share data – music downloads, apps, settings – more easily between devices.
When and Where will the family use the tablet?
Will you use the device mostly at home or on the road? Consider internet access from the tablet. Is Wi-Fi-only okay? The iPad mini offers versions that allow you to connect to the Internet over a 3G or 4G connection. These come at a higher cost than the Wi-Fi-only models so you’ll want to read the fine print. If most tablet use will be at home using your existing home Wi-Fi, you may not need the extra expense. Kids can still play preloaded games that don’t need Internet access, or read books, without an Internet connection.
How much are you willing to spend on a Kid’s tablet?
These 5 tablets range in price from $99 to $729. That’s quite a range! More money will buy you more storage space, faster processing speeds, and the 3G/4G connection on the iPad minis. If you are planning to give each child their own tablet you might want to look at the lower end of the price range. For younger kids who might outgrow a device in a few years, the Kindle Fire Kids edition, Kurio XTreme or Galaxy Tab are all reasonably priced. If making an investment in a tablet that you hope to use for a while, for example for kids on the verge of tweendom or teendom, you might want a tablet that doesn’t LOOK so much like a kid’s tablet. (In most cases, those big plastic bumpers can be removed, and the Galaxy tablet can switch from kids mode to standard mode).
And yeah, apps cost money
When adding up the costs of tablet ownership, don’t forget all the apps and content that the kids will want to download! Consider tablets that come pre-loaded with apps and games. The Kindle Fire Kids edition is essentially the same product as the “non-kids” model but comes with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee. The Kurio Xtreme comes with 90 games and is the only tablet with “Body Motion Gaming” which would be a great way to get the kids moving.
How much control do you want, as a parent?
All the tablets in this last have parental controls available. That’s great news! All but the iPad mini also have the ability to set time limits without having to buy an additional parental control app. With the Galaxy Kids tablet, you can manage which applications children can access, and the amount of time the tablet can be used. The Kurio offers extensive parental controls from web filtering, blocking and allowing apps per profile, setting time limits for playtime and learning time, and maximum session use. The Kindle Fires have similar time management features.
Here’s a quick comparison of the features on these 5 tablets. More information can be found on each company’s website linked near the top. I’ve also included this chart in a printable PDF version. I hope this information helps you in researching the best new tablet for your family.
|Parental Control Options||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Set Screen Time limits (without having to install an app or purchase add’l service)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multi User option – multiple profiles||No||Yes (up to 4)||Yes (up to 4)||Yes (up to 8)||Kids mode and standard mode|
|3G or 4G available||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Screen size||7.9″||6″ or 7”||6” or 7”||7”||7”|
|App Store||iTunes||Amazon app store||Amazon app store||Kurio App store and Google Play||Google Play|
|Operating System||iOS||Fire OS/Android||Fire OS/Android||Android||Android Jelly Bean|
|Storage||16GB – 128GB||8GB or 16GB||8GB||16GB||8GB|
|Price||$249-$729||$99-$159 (Add $15 for no ads)||$149-$189||$129||$129* (may be special Black Friday pricing!)|
A few other resources:
Will you be doing any tablet shopping this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!
(This page includes Amazon.com affiliate links. Read my policy and disclosure page for details.)