When Apple unveiled the first iPad in 2009, it drew some scorn. “It’s just a big iPhone,” said critics. “Who’s going to want it?” As it turns out, a lot of people. The iPad’s popularity drove other smartphone manufacturers to develop their own tablet computers and now there’s a huge selection at shopper’s disposal. But which are the best tablet PCs money can buy? Good question: The answer depends on what you want to do with the devices in question, and which operating system you prefer—not to mention your personal budget. All tablets are extremely convenient for mobile surfing, games, applications, and e-book reading, but some boast specialties as well.
Here are the five best tablet PCs currently on the market:
Apple New iPad (aka the iPad 3) – The iPad remains the best-known tablet, and it’s not hard to see why. It utilizes iOS, the same operating system that runs the iPhone and iPod Touch, which makes it comfortably familiar to use. The iPad’s universal interface also makes it a snap to download new applications: Everything is done through the App Store, same as the iPhone. The iPad’s connection to the App Store and its plethora of software programs makes it the number one choice for music, movies, productivity, TV, games and more.
Asus Transformer Pad – Unfortunately, the Transformer Pad doesn’t turn into a little robot on command, but it’s still a good tablet. It runs on Android, and can typically for under $400 USD. It’s a more economical choice for anyone looking to pick up a tablet for work and web browsing.
Sony Tablet S – The Sony Tablet S also runs on Android, and it’s an excellent alternative for anyone who’s not a fan of iOS. Fans of retro PlayStation games will especially appreciate the tablet’s ability to download and play certain PSOne and PSP titles, including Crash Bandicoot, Wild ARMs, and Jumping Flash.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – The quality of Samsung’s mobile offerings is enough to keep Apple on its toes, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is no exception. It’s light, it’s thin, and it’s 1280 by 800-pixel resolution screen makes it ideal for web surfing and e-book reading, as well as enjoy killer multimedia content.
Kindle Fire – Amazon’s Android-based Kindle Fire eReader is smaller than the iPad, but far cheaper too (typically selling for $199.99 USD). Its portability makes it easy to tote around as an e-book reader, to say nothing of its direct access to the Amazon Appstorem and ability to play video and music on-demand. The Kindle Fire can also be used to surf the web and play games, making it a worthy iPad alternative that costs far less.
For more a detailed breakdown of these tablets, visit:
Best 5 Tablets on CNET
How to Buy the Best Tablet at PCMag.com
Side-by-Side Tablet Comparison at Popular Mechanics
Even before their first birthday, most kids these days are intimately familiar with images and entertainment presented to them via screens. Whether it’s the TV, a tablet computer or a smart phone, screen time is almost an inevitability for youngsters, especially if they have older siblings – hence the reason parents need more information and tips on kids and screen time, including answers to the #1 burning question about it: How much is enough?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under age two, and limiting an older child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day. While this system may fit into the lives of preschoolers, these guidelines must be adjusted as kids grow older. And this isn’t even to touch on the debate about “bad” screen time vs. “good” screen time, although certainly a case could be made that a toddler watching Signing Time DVDs or a middle schooler watching a documentary about healthy eating habits is more valuable than time spent watching meaningless cartoons.
Looking to better manage the role of high-tech devices in your kids’ lives? Here are five tips to help your family keep an eye on screen time
Establish Ground Rules
Kids need to understand that time spent in front of high-tech toys shouldn’t be provided as an inalienable right, but rather earned as privilege.
Specify the exact days, times and circumstances when it’s okay for your kids to be on the computer , using the smartphone or playing video games. Are homework and chores done? Is their usage interfering with a family event? Establish these guidelines ahead of time so there are no questions as to what is acceptable in your family.
It’s also a good idea to start your quest to limiting screen time at a young age. Allowing a half hour a day of tech-related screen time for preschoolers, separate from TV watching, works for many of the modern parents we’ve spoken to.
As kids grow older, many families push the daily screen time allowance up to one or two hours and add or subtract time as a reward or punishment for good or bad behavior. Some families choose to lump all screen time together, while others may specifically call out TV time, computer time or video game time. Beginning at a fixed base level, such as an hour per day, can make a good starting point, giving you some wiggle room to add or subtract time based on children’s behavior.
Consider Common Areas and Curfews
Where possible, make sure all devices and Internet connections are located in common areas of the house. Doing so not only allows you to keep abreast of online interactivity, usage patterns and who kids are interacting with as well as how. It also lets you be present when devices are used, monitor playtime and keep kids (or Dad) from secretly sneaking online to play World of Warcraft at 3AM on a school night.
Setting an electronic curfew in your house may also help curtail late night use and improve your family’s overall health by encouraging everyone to sleep when they should. Choose a time such as 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on your kids’ ages, after which there’s no more use of electronics. Create a common docking station for all devices in your bedroom, where all digital devices must be checked in before bed time, and assign a curfew for each one of them.
Set Device-Free Times
Also, make sure to set aside device-free times that the entire family can spend together. Parenting experts such as Richard Rende, PhD, associate (research) professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, suggest that the use of technology isn’t necessarily what’s dangerous for kids as an impediment to healthy development. Instead, problems can arise if all the technology and connecting is done at the expense of other proven developmentally healthy and necessary activities.
Many parents require kids to experience one hour of outside time for every one hour of video game or screen time. We encourage you to experiment and find what’s right for your family.
Set a Good Example
Setting a good example is potentially more important than establishing these rules. Make sure you don’t get caught up dedicating your focus to your phone or other screens over your kids.
Whether it’s at the dinner table, or during a weekly Friday night movie or game night, being present and engaged for your kids will ensure a more engaging and rewarding family activity, and show them that it’s okay to disconnect from their screens and connect with others.
Translate Screen Time into Real Life
Play along and engage with your kids about the activities they’re doing on-screen. They’ll love telling you about what they’re watching, and treasure the time you are able to play together. Many parents would love to chat with kids about books, but fail to see how games, apps and TV shows also engage their imagination.
If possible, translate the games and activities kids are doing in real life. If they are enjoying an alphabet tracing app, prepare some worksheets that highlight the same skills. If they’re playing Angry Birds (or watching you), set up your own Angry Birds course in the house. If they’re watching Dr. Who, consider working on a project based on a theme of the show. Screen time’s positive or negative effects are often all what you make of them.
News, reviews & trends for fathers – a contemporary parent’s perspective.
It’s the most common question about kids and technology that we’re asked as high-tech parenting experts: At what age should you buy your kid a cell phone or smartphone? The answer: Unfortunately, as we recently explained to Parenting magazine, there’s no magic number – it’s largely a function of family need, children’s maturity level and both how well-equipped that you feel your children are to make good decisions and the safety tools that you’ve put in place to catch them if they should stumble.
However, in the interest of provide a succinct answer that will be of the most service, let’s see if we can summarize. In short, while it won’t be right for every household, many parents first introduce a cell phone to kids around age 13. While some households lean a little younger, this is a fairly reasonable starting point if you’re looking for an opening guideline. That said, when you really should introduce a mobile device to kids’ lives is when there’s actually a meaningful, pressing need – e.g. when they’ll be outside of easy contact, and you absolutely, positively need to keep in contact with them, or be able to communicate on-demand should an emergency arise.
A few other points we share with parents when speaking on this topic:
- Consider buying a cell phone that dials only your contact number if and when kids need to come home alone. Prepaid cell phones can also let you limit call times and features, restrict Internet usage, prevent access to unwanted features, and monitor overall usage, and usage patterns.
- If you’re concerned about receiving unexpectedly large bills, or kids’ Internet activity, opt out of texting or endless data plans and choose a basic feature phone that forgoes bells and whistles such as downloadable apps, unlimited Web browsing and GPS tracking to limit children’s online interactions.
- Always read the manual, research and go hands-on with phones, smartphones, tablet PCs or any high-tech device that provides VoIP or digital calling functionality before you hand them over to children. It’s imperative to know the ins and outs of the cell phone you’re considering for your child before you give it to him or her – a good rule of thumb for any high-tech device for that matter.
- Consider restricting cell phone usage to only taking place in your presence until kids are mature enough to handle calls, texting and online interactions on their own.
- Be certain to monitor cell phone activity and usage, and review your bill regularly for suspicious calls, activity or communications made when mobile handsets are supposed to have been shut down, e.g. 3AM on a Tuesday night.
For more information on kids and cell phones, including some of the latest statistics and other digital parenting experts’ input, check out our friends at Parenting magazine, and the in-depth look they provide on the subject.