Note: I blogged about this back in 2014, so this is an updated article.
When I was growing up, computers were barely making their ways into the lives of kids. I distinctly remember the year my junior high school setup their first computer lab, with shiny Apple IIe computers. We thought we were on top of the world at 128K of RAM and big old double density floppy disks. 1985 was such a good year! (I know I just dated myself)
Nowadays, computers go with kids like peanut butter and jelly. They are certainly in most, if not all, their classrooms at school, and most homes today have at least one computer in the house. So if you are a parent and considering getting a computer for a child, this article can be your guide into finding the appropriate computer for your children.
Desktop or Laptop?
For many parents, the first conundrum is whether to get their child a desktop or laptop computer. Desktops are typically built with more durability, which can help with little hands that may not know their own strength, and have more space for expansion, such as hardware upgrades. Laptops are nice because they take up very little space and in the last decade have proven themselves to be just as powerful as desktops. In the last few years, the major benefit of course, is the addition of touchscreens on many laptops being manufactured.
Some of the down sides to a desktop is taking up space in the home. While laptops are space savers and are portable, they could become a potential web security issue, especially with older children like tweens and teens taking them behind closed doors. Also, laptops from a cost perspective are considerably more expensive than desktops. Yes, there are those “amazing” deals you see on laptops out there. I will address that topic later on.
New or Used?
When considering purchasing a computer for your child, the next question that arises is whether one should get a new or a used computer? This is really going to come down to your own decision and works right for you. Here are the benefits and risks associated with both.
When purchasing a new computer, you are getting something that no one else has ever used. Also, new computers come with a manufacturers warranty for at least the first year, so if you have any problems like the hard drive crashing, you have somewhere you can go for repair support and not pay additional money. Also, a new computer is going to have the latest technology inside, such as the latest processor, memory, and other hardware items. However, when you are buying a new computer, you are paying brand new prices, which depending on what you are buying, either desktop or laptop, can be pricey. Those prices can range from $500 to nearly $1600 or more.
Some parents may consider getting their child a used computer for them to cut their teeth on due to cost concerns. Used computers are not just the ones you find on Craigslist, but that also includes refurbished computers. When you purchase a used computer, you are not going to have the latest Intel processor, but what you will get typically is a computer that was made in the last couple of years. If you are purchasing this for your kids to browse the net, use email, and watch cat videos on Youtube, this may be the way to go and save a lot of money. I recommend purchasing refurbished computers from trusted sellers, as you typically can get a limited warranty from them. If you are going to purchase one from Craigslist, it is definitely “buyer beware” territory. Get a computer geek friend to help you out on that.
PC or Mac?
I will not spend a lot of time on this, but this is something to consider. First, if you have children that attend school, find out what is the primary operating system they use for all their school related work. Also, look at the computers your already have in your home and what operating system they run on. While both have their strengths and weaknesses, I can tell you that the overwhelming number of computers today on the planet, and especially in schools, are PCs, which means they are running Windows. However, if your family is a Mac family, then you may want to go that route. Again, this is a personal decision.
What About Those “Amazing Deals?”
I have addressed this topic before, when covering Black Friday technology shopping, but this also applies when buying a computer for your child. You will inevitably come across computer “deals” either in snail-mail advertisements, email, or perhaps TV commercials. You may see something like, “15 inch laptop with Windows 10 only $299.00!” Sound great when purchasing for a kid right? Let me tell you why it’s not.
Computers that are advertised with the latest operating system, but for dirt cheap prices, are because you are getting a cheap PC, which is to say, a piece of crap. It is a machine built with cheap parts and the very minimum amount of hardware to run the operating system. A closer look at these “deals” and you will find that they have 2GB to 4GB of RAM trying to run Windows 10. This means almost right out of the gate, your child is going to complain how slow the computer is, and that will get old really quick. Frankly, you would make out better on Craigslist than with one of these advertised “deals”.
Time To Get One
Regardless of what route you may go, PC or Mac, desktop or laptop, I would highly recommend getting a computer for your child. Computers are as much a fact of life for children as they are for adults. Hopefully this guide will help you with making that decision without breaking the bank.