Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
The family that indulges in tech together, stays together. All right, no guarantees. Still, technology is such an important part of our day-to-day life that it makes a lot of sense for the family to herd together and enjoy what’s on-hand as a group. But electronics are expensive, so you need to narrow down your choices by asking, “What’s the best tech out there for families?”
It’s kind of a personal question since every family’s needs varies depending on budget, size, and need. Nevertheless, if you have a passel of dependents, there are some basic choices that you should consider making up-front.
AppleTV/GoogleTV – Streaming technology is hot news, and both AppleTV and GoogleTV are big parts of that news. Both services feed digital video content to your television through a handsome box that takes up very little room in your den. GoogleTV, which is powered by Android, lets you surf freely through the Internet in addition to streaming video content. AppleTV lets you play back media from your iTunes account. Both services have advantages and disadvantages, but are worth considering if you have a video-loving family.
Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 – The current generation of consoles goes beyond playing video games. You can use the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 to access apps like NetFlix and YouTube, or stream video from your PC to your TV. The PlayStation 3 also has a built-in Blu-ray player, and if your family likes to get up and move, the optional Kinect add-on (Xbox 360) or Move remote accessories (PlayStation 3) is a good exercise option on rainy days.
HDTV – If you don’t have a high definition TV (HDTV), you’re going to want to pick one up for your family as soon as you possibly can. Granted, those may sound like words out of a fairy tale if you’re on a budget, but remember that the HDTV market is constantly at war. Prices drop all the time, and sales are rampant. Even if you can’t afford a set right away, always keep an eye open. Moreover, take some basic shopping advice with you to the store.
Multi charging station – So many electronics, so few available plugs. Eliminate the risk of a kid-sized civil war with a multi-charging station so that several electronics can be charged up at one time. The Aviiq Portable Charging Station is a decent affordable option, as is the Joy Factory.
Kid-Friendly headphones – Kids don’t like to go anywhere without their music. That’s fine. What’s less fine is that all the thud-thud-thudding might be damaging their sensitive ears. Consider giving them a pair of cool-looking kids’ headphones with self-adjusting volume levels, like the Aerial 7 Arcade Headphones. Your kids may grouse at first, but they’ll thank you some twenty years down the line. Just be patient.
For more great family tech suggestions, visit:
Best Gadgets for Kids at Pocket Lint
According to a recent infographic from MDG advertising, more than half of 5 to 8 year olds have used a tablet, and 10% of kids have used one before their first birthday. While the majority of kids covet Apple and its products (i.e. the iPad, iPod and iPhone) as their most desired gifts every holiday season, a number of companies are designing tablets specifically made for kids that are rugged enough to deal with rougher playground or home usage and focus on educational apps and parental engagement. Here’s a look at several of the best new tablets for kids, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new technology and gadgets for children of all ages:
LeapPad 2 – Utlizing a touchscreen and stylus, the LeapPad 2 features games and software that come as either cartridges that are bought at a retail store, or apps that can be downloaded wirelessly. LeapFrog places emphasis on education, so all apps and games have high educational value. LeapPad 2 has a front and back camera, which can be used for inserting faces and pics into funny movies with built-in apps, like Cartoon Director which lets kid make their own animations. There’s also a song-creation app and an art app that come already installed. The LeapPad 2 is recommended for kids between 3 and 9.
LeapsterGS – A learning game system for ages four and up, this award-winning toy gets some welcome upgrades in the form of motion controls, a built-in camera and the ability to record videos or edit pictures on the fly. It also adds a microphone and the ability to share memories you’ve captured and created online, and boasts a sizable software library of over 300 titles, which include virtual pets, educational gaming activities and a variety of high-tech entertainment options that take advantage of the system’s touchscreen. Featured options include eBooks, games, videos, music and educational amusements that teach math, spelling, science, geography and more.
Nabi 2 – The Nabi 2 blends a durable form with the functionality that kids and parents want. Featuring an iIntegrated educational tracker called Fooz Kids University, the device also lets parents create and manage a chore List and Treasure Box to virtual and real-life activities and help kids work to earn things they want. The Nabi 2 offers more than 10,000 kid-friendly music choices as well as a $2.99 a month streaming subscription to popular kids shows from Cookie Jar entertainment (like Busytown, Strawberry Shortcake, Sonic the Hedgehog, Inspector Gadget and more). Each app available for purchase and download is also “curated,” meaning it’s approved by a person. And as an added convenience, there are no wires or cords necessary for syncing – it’s all done wirelessly.
Meep – From Oregon Scientific, the Meep was designed with the concerns of parents in mind. The focus is on allowing kids to do what they want, but in a safe environment. Parental controls are accessible from any computer, where parents can monitor activity and set time limits. Also, the Meep allows parents to easily set a virtual allowance to allow kids to buy games and apps. Meep has perhaps the most rugged protective case of all the tablets available for kids. Recommended for ages 6 and up. $150.
Tabeo – From Toys R Us, the Tabeo makes “online safety a top priority”. The device comes with 50 pre-installed apps that include many of today’s most popular games, such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Temple Run, Cut the Rope, Tike Golf, built-in educational apps and iStorybooks. There are also many parental control options that regulate Internet access and app access. With the backing of a Toys R Us, there’s access to a vast amount of content on Tabeo: At launch in 2012, there were already 7,000 apps to choose from in the Tabeo App store.
InnoTab 2 – From vTech, the InnoTab is focused on making education fun for kids from preschool to elementary school. The Innotab comes with a rotating camera and an eReader for interactive storybooks. Educational games and apps are available for download, or also can be played via cartridges. The Innotab provides all the basic functionality and fun of tablets, like motion control, and at a reasonable price is a good choice for a kid’s first dedicated tablet of their own.
iPad – Although we’ve looked at those designed for kids, it’s worth mentioning the unquestioned leader in tablets. However, one of the main reasons these other kid-focused devices exist is because the iPad is a bit more fragile and doesn’t provide nearly the level of parental controls or restrictions as the others. It is possible, though, that with some work, you can take steps to protect your iPad such as blocking in-App purchases, restricting access to content rated by age and even installing apps like Mobicip that block access to websites or chat programs.
Interested in a few more tablet options for kids? You may also want to check out:
Shopping for the best new high-tech holiday gear has never been easier, thanks to endless online bargains and deals. Just one problem: With hundreds of awesome HDTVs, smartphones, tablet PCs and other cutting-edge electronics suddenly competing for attention, choosing the perfect gift for gadget lovers isn’t always an easy task. Credit a bounty of new stocking stuffers – 2012’s must-have electronics and accessories include great gift-giving options for every interest and budget. Luckily, our team of technology experts have culled through hundreds of the best new tech toys and put together a handy cheat sheet to seven of the season’s hottest picks.
Looking to get your wish-list started? Among the year’s top selections are digital cameras, next-generation video game systems, connected television sets, eReaders, portable computing solutions, and media players of every shape and size. The following list – just a small preview of the coolest new gear available in coming weeks – can help you get a leg up on your holiday shopping. The best part: Sweet as these gadgets are, they’re just the tip of the virtual iceberg.
Many smartphones such as the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx (notable for its ultra-long battery life) and Samsung Galaxy S3 (recommended for its oversized screen) deserve shoppers’ attention this holiday. But Apple’s latest model, the iPhone 5, is among the very first you should keep on speed dial. Compatible with over 500,000 apps and building on its predecessors’ highlights – videoconferencing, an ultra-crisp display, cloud music streaming, etc. – with all-new features, the best just keeps on getting better.
Roughly 18% thinner, 20% lighter and considerably faster than the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 also adds high-speed 4G LTE broadband connectivity for brisk downloads, a larger 4-inch screen, and a brawny A6 processor. Letting you wirelessly stream movies, music, television and games down on-demand, the handset doesn’t just load websites, apps and media faster than ever. It also delivers better graphics and computing performance, and comes with enhanced front- and rear-facing cameras for sharper photos, slicker video recording and stutter-free teleconferencing.
The iPhone 5’s multitude of features – including a touchscreen, motion-sensing gyroscope and support for voice commands through its Siri virtual assistant – make it a supercomputer that fits in your pocket. Using the device, you can enjoy a portable media powerhouse to go, or connect with friends and family from nearly anywhere your holiday travels take you.
Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii console redefined gaming for a generation. Featuring a unique tablet Game Pad controller with a dedicated 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen (offering a second view on the action, or allowing for video viewing separate from TV), successor the Wii U hopes to provide a repeat performance.
Available in two models – Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) or Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad) – it’s a prospective game changer. Credit the ability to play groundbreaking titles such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, Pikmin 3, and Madden NFL 13, which allow for solo or multiplayer action across multiple screens. Better yet, awesome options are available for all ages including kids (Skylanders Giants, Just Dance 4), adults (FIFA Soccer 13, Assassin’s Creed 3) and everyone in-between (Disney’s Epic Mickey 2).
Upsides include the ability to view gameplay on both your TV and GamePad, control your television with the tablet’s touschscreen, and link up to four Wii remotes for frantic head-to-head excitement. Backwards compatible with games from the original Wii, it doesn’t skimp on forward-thinking technology either. Bonuses include Internet access for multiplayer match-ups and downloading movies, music and games; video chat capabilities; second-screen viewing experiences; and wireless connectivity that lets you interact with real-world objects.
Fans of digital photography can give images a boost with this speedy and high-performing compact camera whose lens captures bright, top-quality snapshots even under low-light conditions. Whether using it to fire off bursts of pictures in rapid succession, or tape 1080 high-definition (HD) video, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the device’s premium capabilities and intuitive user interface.
Designed to work in a variety of shooting conditions, including nighttime or outdoor scenes, the device also offers a wide-angle Leica lens with 3.8X zoom functions, so you can take stunning shots from a distance. Built-in noise reduction features are simply icing on the cake, helping ensure your holiday memories look gorgeous when printed or viewed on the DMC-LX7’s 3-inch LCD screen.
Literally dozens of great eReaders are available from companies like Sony (Reader), Barnes & Noble (Nook HD+) and Kobo (Arc, Glo, etc.). But don’t miss out on Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, the latest in the bestselling line of eReaders, which adds a higher-resolution and -contrast screen, and a built-in light offering 8 weeks of battery life when charged.
Avid readers will especially love the ability to download thousands of books, newspapers, magazines and more anywhere in the world using free 3G wireless or WiFi capability, all visible on its 6-inch screen even in direct sunlight. Browsing options include over 180,000 exclusives and self-published volumes, so you can catch up on everything from the latest Twilight novel to definitive works on nearly any topic. From children’s books to action-packed thrillers, you’ll be surprised at the selection – and how just akin to real-life reading the experience feels.
Want to catch up on your reading while visiting the in-laws or hitting the beach? Spare yourself the indignity (and hernia) of having to haul along a bunch of hardbacks – able to hold hundreds of volumes, it’s basically a portable library to go.
Is it a smartphone or tablet – you decide. Following in the footsteps of Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note, this powerful cellular handset with oversized 5-inch screen allows for full-fledged computing performance without sacrificing pocket-ready convenience. Ideal for video viewing, Web surfing or reading, its bright colors, ample visual real estate and high-def resolution should prove a hit with road warriors.
Perfect for jotting down notes with the included stylus, the Intuition also offers lightning-quick wireless 4G LTE connectivity, WiFi support and an 8MP with LED flash. As such, it should also strike a chord with professionals hoping to boost productivity, or avid social media enthusiasts. You know what they say about all work and no play, though – running on the Android 4.0 operating system, tens of thousands of compatible apps are available. That way, whether you’re killing time waiting for a connection or happily cruising along at 10,000 feet, you’ll always have the power to summon up endless sources of entertainment on-demand.
Critics have praised this 55-inch plasma HDTV and 3D TV for its arresting picture quality, brilliant contrast and suave aesthetic. But what will really turn heads is its price – think premiere features for a fraction of the cost. Capable of displaying 1080p HD video, you’ll be able to enjoy TV shows and films at staggering levels of detail, with characters and objects that pop right out of the scenes. Of course, ultra-crisp color and 3D viewing support only enhances this effect: Don a pair of active shutter 3D glasses, and high-def images will literally burst from the screen.
Extras are plentiful too – Smart TV (a.k.a. Internet-ready) features being among the most prominent. Via Panasonic’s Viera Cast options, you can access Pandora for streaming music, enjoy video-on-demand from services like CinemaNow, and enjoy MLB, MLS and NHL news and info whenever the mood strikes. Online video won’t blur while playing either, thanks to enhanced image reproduction. But perhaps most engaging is the availability of 2D to 3D upconversion, which lets you take standard everyday content – e.g. your favorite TV shows, Blu-ray movies and online media – and screen them in 3D. Consider it a gift that keeps on giving: Put the set in your living room, and every time neighbors come to visit for holiday gatherings, their jaws will drop.
Many portable computing enthusiasts now own an iPad (and with good reason). But if you’ve been holding out on buying a tablet PC, especially if you’re torn over the decision between purchasing a more fully-featured laptop, this is the model that will make you reconsider. Among the best Android selections, The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 packs full HD resolution, a dedicated NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core CPU and serious processing muscle. Translated into plain English, that means sick 3D graphics, speedy load times and apps so powerful you’d think you were sitting in front of a desktop system.
Capable of delivering jaw-dropping 3D visuals for a fraction of the price, the tablet PC is also compatible with an optional QWERTY keyboard dock with touchpad, SD card reader and USB port that extends battery life to 14 hours. Pair the two, and you can effectively enjoy the best of both worlds, letting the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 double as a notebook PC. Bonuses include an 8MP camera for snapping natty-looking photos, cloud storage solutions for archiving files online, and a full suite of office and productivity software. Compatible with thousands of apps, it’s a nicely portable and expandable alternative to traditional laptop systems that lets you enjoy two computing options for the price of one.
This post is part of eBay Finders, a new partnership that presents collections of items curated by a carefully selected group of electronics experts. Meet more of the Finders at ebayelectronics.tumblr.com. #eBayFinders