Tablets have become a part of everyday life for most families. In a survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2011, Nielsen discovered that 7 out of 10 children in households with a tablet computer used the device regularly. The gadget is most often used to keep children entertained while families go from one activity to the next. Children mainly accessed games, but also used the tablet for education, to watch videos and to chat with friends and family. When children are ready for a tablet of their own, parents want kid-friendly models that offer first-rate parental controls. So which are the most popular options?
Prefer a grown-up tablet for the whole family? Check out our reviews of tablet computers. Thinking a smart phone might be more efficient? We also looked at user habits for tablet versus smart phone and have a few recommendations. What's our take on the best choice for kid's tablets? Stay tuned as we'll weigh in with our views next week.
The Tabeo will only be available at Toys ‘R’ Us stores. The Tabeo (*Est. $150) can be pre-ordered, but the seven-inch tablet won’t become available until October 21, 2012. It is sure to be a hot ticket item for Christmas gift giving. It has a 1-GHz processor and 4-GB of storage, but also can add storage -- up to 32-GB via a micro SDHC memory card. The Tabeo has built-in WIFI for Internet access. A camera on the front allows kids to take pictures and upload them to share with family and friends. Probably one of the most important features that make this tablet a kid-safe option is the bumper that protects the screen should your child drop it. The Tabeo also comes with parental controls so you can protect your child while he is browsing online.
Kindle Fire HD
If you’re looking for a tablet the whole family can share, then the new7-inch Kindle Fire HD (*Est. $200) deserves a look. Those who are fans of the Kindle Fire already enjoy the Internet access, numerous apps, games and easy access to a wide variety of books and reference materials. However, parental controls are limited with the original KindleFire. The Kindle Fire HD introduces FreeTime, a custom profile that gives parents more control over what their kids can access. FreeTime allows parents to set controls on things such as how much time a child can spend on a specific activity, such as watching videos. You can also set up different FreeTime profiles, something that can come in handy if you have kids of different ages, for example. Profile support also means parents can safely use the Kindle Fire HD for their own movie viewing, gaming or reading once the young ones are safely tucked away in bed. The seven-inch Kindle Fire HD, with 16 GB of memory, starts at $199.00, but the price goes up from there if you want a bigger screen (an 8.9-inch version is also available) or more memory.
Leap Frog’s LeapPad2 (*Est. $100) has a 5-inch touch screen, 550 MHz processor, 4-GB of memory on board and a battery life of about nine hours. It has built-in front and rear cameras so kids can take pictures and videos from any angle. This is a compact and sturdy tablet for younger kids without the worries of online dangers. Kids can play games, read books and complete educational activities on the LeapPad2. There are over 325 apps and cartridges for the device, all specifically aimed at children. It is available in green or pink.
If you’re looking for a tablet that can grow with your child and meet your needs as a parent, the Nabi 2 (*Est. $200) has enough apps and downloads to mature along with your child. It also features a “Mommy Mode” for those times when you want to view something you don’t want your child to access, such as a social networking site. The Nabi2 has controls to prevent children from landing on an inappropriate site or conversing with someone who hasn’t been approved by their parents. One of the more interesting things on the Nabi website is the videos of drop tests between this tablet and other popular contenders, such as the Kindle Fire, iPad and Nook. The Nabi’s 7-inch touch screen surrounded by durable plastic bumpers wins out each time as the most durable tablet. The Nabi 2 has front-facing camera and video, 8 GB of storage (expandable to 32 GB) and 2 GB of cloud storage.
If you want a tablet that your child can use for games and educational activities, then the less expensive VTech InnoTab 2 (*Est. $80) might be a better choice for beginner tablet users. The manufacturer lists the recommended ages for this tablet as three to nine years old. It is available with a sturdy white or pink case that will withstand a few bumps and drops. The tablet also offers a camera, which can take still pictures or videos. It has a 5-inch color touch screen, 2-GB of built-in memory, expandable to up to 32-GB via a SD memory card. It comes with features like an MP3 player, art studio and e-reader. Parents can upload new content to the InnoTab 2, such as games, and can also track children’s progress in educational apps.
There is no longer a need for kids to beg Mom or Dad to use the iPad, because Meep (*Est. $150) will meet all the tablet needs a child might have. This tablet offers some of the most extensive parental controls of any of the kid-friendly tablets. Parents can set time limits, access reports on a child’s activity or set safety controls. Even better, the reports can be accessed from another device without interrupting the child’s time on the Meep. The tablet runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which gives it the flexibility to easily access apps and games, though only those from the curated Meep store, not Google play -- typical for these child-oriented tablets. It has a 7-inch touch screen, 4 GB of internal storage, Wi-Fi, and a front facing camera. Available accessories include a microphone, piano, headphones and add-on controllers (such as a joystick) for video gaming.