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May 28, 2010

Would you buy a laptop for a 10 year old?

Remember when we were kids and the idea a phone in our bedroom was like a really big deal? Having our own line was almost unthinkable. Maybe the most expensive electronic gift we might have asked our parents for was a Gameboy or a walkman. If we were lucky, we may have had a clunky slow computer in our house, but we had to share it with the whole family and our gaming options were limited to stuff like Frogger.

Times have certainly changed.

Lil' Lilith (my 10-year-old) has a nicer iPod than I do, a DSi, and her own cell phone (for emergencies only, but still.) Now she wants a laptop and wants to start her own blog. I'm afraid we're going to have to wait on the latter (she'll have to settle for guest blogging on here for now) but I'm actually considering letting her have her own computer. The main reason is pure selfishness: I want her to quit borrowing mine! Doesn't she know I have important Facebooking blogging to do?

Some people think that it's crazy to let a kid that young have their own computer, but those arguments come mostly from the older generation - that didn't grow up with computers, etc. Lil' Lilith's generation has never known a world without the Internet. While many parents question whether or not it's safe to let our kids online (be it for play, schoolwork or "social networking") we can't ignore the fact that computer proficiency is a required skill nowadays, even for kids at the elementary school level. What do you think about letting kids use the Internet? How young is too young?

Honestly, I'm not that concerned about it. She's a really smart kid, she's incredibly responsible and has so far  proven herself to be very good about following online safety rules. Plus it's not as though I would allow her to The real problem is that computers are friggin expensive!! Even the "cheap" ones are way up there and it's hard to justify spending a lot of money on a computer for a fourth grader.

As always, I turned to Savings.com for online discounts and coupon codes... I found some great HP coupons and Dell coupon codes. So now my real question, is what kind of computer do you readers recommend? I'm looking for something that is not just cost-efficient, but also user-friendly and durable (she's smart and responsible, but she's still 10!!)

Advice is needed! (Although I don't need any lectures about spoiling my kid or exposing her to the horrors of the Internet, thanks.)

*Computer coupons and discount info brought to you by: Savings.com
*For more info on now to protect your kids from Internet risks: Online Safety Tips


Anonymous said...

I think if they're responsible then there's nothing wrong with buying a 10 year old a computer!

Shen said...

I'm with you, kids are ready when they are ready--mature, careful, etc. My parents raised me with that in mind, and we never had any problems.

I was about eight or nine when my dad built me my first computer. He's a programmer, so we've always had them in the house. That computer had to manually boot into Windows, didn't go online, etc. but it had enough games to keep me from doing my homework. ;) And I still read books, and did crafts, and played with dolls. Electronics don't have to consume your life.

You definitely don't have to buy something expensive. Get her a desktop, rather than a laptop. You can get a sturdy machine between $300-500, and set it somewhere visible. She's much less likely to damage or lose it if she's not carrying it around, and if you want to keep an eye on her browsing, you can put it somewhere public. (Keep in mind that you'll also have to put up with incessant giggling.) Or, make the rule that her door has to be open when she's online.

If you find that it becomes a problem, you can limit her internet access with net nanny software to block sites, or put time limits on her usage. Part of parenting this generation means teaching moderation.

Whatever you get her, make sure you buy something that suits her needs. What does she want to use it for? Primary concern should be that she can do schoolwork on it, print, etc. I assume she'll want music, too. If she's artistic, or wants to try making videos, make sure you get the RAM and hard drive space to support that. (Very good girls can try for a drawing tablet for their birthdays...) If she wants to get into games, make sure you get a good video card. Got a digital camera she uses? Make sure the new machine can read it. (I'm seeing more computers with card readers.) If she just wants to play around online and chat to friends, it doesn't need to be anything fancy at all.

If you get her a computer now, it will start to creak and groan in two years, and be a lumbering behemoth by the time she enters high school, when she'll be due for an upgrade. Modern parenting lesson--teach her to use anti-virus software, etc. And how to call tech support! If she's as clever as she sounds, she'll pick it up quickly and start fixing YOUR computer in no time. ;)

Just make sure she understands that this is a powerful piece of equipment (even if it's not high end, it can still do a LOT), and it's her responsibility to look after it until high school. That means she needs to think carefully about how much and what she downloads, how cluttered it gets, upgrading, firewalling, etc.

I'm sure she, and you, will do just great.

Delaney said...

I'm sixteen, and I've had a laptop since I was eight (granted, it was an el cheapo brick that my dad bought off eBay for 200 bucks, but it was a working laptop!). Internet is probably the most important resource to which I have been given free access. My parents never monitored my internet usage, and I learned lessons on my own (and had to deal with some consequences like viruses, but as an aside, I haven't had a virus in about five years). You should absolutely get your daughter a laptop! I know that nothing can replace asking a parent a question, but my mother is not Wikipedia (or Urban Dictionary), and some embarrassing questions are better asked of Google than of one's parents.

I'd get her a netbook unless she's into video games. Make sure it's a durable machine. My first laptop was a brick, but it withstood having chocolate milk dumped into it (though only after my dad replaced the keyboard). But she'll probably be more responsible and you won't have to worry about her dropping it. It's a good lesson in maintenance , too--defragging and physical cleaning and file organizing.

The biggest thing I'd like to stress is to try to avoid the urge to censor her. Maybe it won't be a problem for someone as progressive as you, or maybe you would like to censor the internet. It's up to you as a parent, but unrestricted internet access is a blessing. I am so much more connected and aware of the world outside of my house. A computer is a small investment compared to the education it brings.

Like you said, computer usage is a vital skill today. My dad raised me around computers, and I find it odd that my boyfriend (who is two years older than I am) has to have me fix his computer problems. His mom never bothered with getting him a computer or internet access, and even though he uses one with ease, he has no idea what's really going on inside the computer. Maybe your daugher will grow up to be a computer scientist! I know that my lifelong exposure to computers was the biggest influence on my decision to declare a computer science major at my university.

Delaney said...

Oh! I forgot that the entire point to your post was to ask for advice about different computers.
My first laptop was a Compaq, and I don't even think that those exist anymore. I've owned an HP, and I can say with conviction that all HP computers suck. They expire within a year, desktop or laptop. I have mixed feelings about Dell. Their desktops are decent, but the Dell laptops I know don't work very well.

My last laptop and my current one are Gateways. The old one is still ticking, and my mom uses it to browse the internet. My current one is a desktop replacement system I bought for gaming, and I've had it for two years. It still runs great, and it plays new releases pretty well. (I have an irrational brand loyalty to Gateway.)

You could try getting a laptop from Newegg. They have pretty good deals.
Acer and Asus are two cheap and quality brands. Dad has an Acer desktop that's pretty good.

Something like this might work: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834115728

But if she wants to run Photoshop or play non-casual games, it won't work.
Anywho, that's my opinion, and sorry that I wrote two lengthy comments!

Renee said...

I bought my nine year old a laptop for his birthday this year. I decided that if he was going to be an electronic fiend that I wanted him to have something useful that he could learn with. We got him one of those mini lap tops. At any rate the only rule we made is that he is not allowed to take his computer upstairs to his bedroom. He is also aware that at any time we will check his history to make sure that he is going to appropriate places and we reserve the right to look over his shoulder at anytime. So far we have not had any problems and upside is that neither his father or I, have to share our computers. I say if you can afford it and she is responsible why not.

Sreya said...

I agree that certain kids are more mature than others, and if you think that Lil' Lilith is mature enough to own a computer, she most probably is.

I agree with Shen, who says that you should definitely get her a desktop (preferably a humongous desktop, so it'll be nigh immovable), and one with strong parental controls on the internet. Leave the door open so that you can make sure she's doing all right. I'm 23 -- not an fuddy-duddy, I'd hope! -- which means that I grew up with computers, though the internet became a household staple when I was in the sixth/seventh grade or so.

My younger brother, however, has grown up with the internet and has known nothing else in his life. Without going into too much in the way of specifics, we've found out that social networking has taken the distracting -- sometimes damaging & disturbing -- effects of the lunchroom into the house. He was the target of sustained bullying attacks. On the computer, there is no escape from bad friendships. I won't say anything else except to mention that these events were devastating and had lasting effects on his grades and his ability to concentrate in school. His is not an isolated case -- in my school there are insane numbers of cyberbullying cases. It's not an isolated problem and something that should be ignored.

I am strongly in favor of limiting internet access for those reasons. I know that Lil' Lilith is mature enough to handle whatever she may or may not come across while browsing. In fact, I'd probably encourage her to seek out knowledge in this way, and it's one of the very positive things that the internet allows us to do. I do think, however, that the internet eliminates the necessary space that a child should have from his/her school environment, space that will allow her to focus on her family life.

For those reasons, I'd be careful. But I would get her the computer only because it's such a powerful, creative & educational tool. I wish you all the success with your purchase, and let us know what great things Lil Lilith does with your wonderful gift!

sexgenderbody said...

Well, we got our girl a laptop when she was 6 or 7. We're a geek household. She's got an iPod, too and she'll be 10 in a month or so. She uses Skype for her Chinese lessons because the teacher is in Shanghai. She and I are building a PC from scratch as a father/daughter kit project.

We have some parental controls on her device and we talk about things that are out there. Our attitude is that she'll make her living in a world populated with technology that hasn't even been invented yet. So, she might as well get into it, if she is so inclined.

As for IM, her status on Skype is "I report freaks who try to contact me" and we tell her about how creeps pretend to be children.

She's only allowed to be online when we're in the room with her.

I don't know if it's right, wrong, good or bad. It's just how we do things around here.

Anonymous said...

Renee, just remember that with IE 8, your son can easily hide his browsing history by using "InPrivate" browsing. When you use it, it doesn't record the sites you are going to as part of your history. So it's not obvious like with older versions of IE where you had to erase ALL of your browsing history if you went to one suspiscious site.

Or he can download a different browser and hide it so you don't know he;s using it. There are a lot of different free browser software programs out there today.

I know censorship is one thing, but there is a LOT of hateful and harmful stuff out there. I think the only thing you can do these days to protect kids is to teach them how to interpret and understand these things for themselves, how to avoid what's scary and how to know when they are being fooled or lied to. Because in this day and age, anyone can find anything, from pretty much anywhere. If they don't do it on their own personal computer, they'll be doing it at their friends house, or the public library internet access

That's how we got around shared computers at home when I was a teenager! my friends talked to their internet boyfriends at the library. And got some really creepy emails from some really messed up guys.. back then things were so harmless in comparison, too!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you bought her the computer but if you did...great! I'm going to back myself up with the Darwanian Theory of Evolution, the most apt will survive. Children nowdays see and live thing that we didn't have access to. You should not overprotect her or bring her up too innocent-like, the truth of the matter is that while you are being a responsible parent, most parents aren't. Children her age have access to computers and their parents probably don't check on them as they are supposed to. I know you trust your daughter and that being your primal instinct you should buy her the computer. On on hand you are showing her you trust her enough and on the other you are preparing her for the 21st century skills she'll need.
It's better now that she's young and she might tell you the not-so-nice things she encounters online than when she becomes older and be to embarassed or even maybe flattered by things she could face. You should talk to her about the things she might bump into, it's better for you to tell her than for her to find out alone. The internet is a mirror of society so, wether we like it or not, our children's futures are going to be very different from ours. We might as well give them the tools they'll need to adapt.

maiki said...

If I were to buy a pre-teen a laptop I would probably go with the Starling EduBook, or something similar. I would try to stay within the $400 range.

Recently I shopped around for a computer for a single mother with two children, and we went with a desktop from System 76. There was some concern that they wouldn't like it because it ran Ubuntu, but it is working out fine, and the children are in middle-school.

I am a big proponent of exposing children to non-Windows/MacOS operating systems. And the educational versions of Ubuntu seem to be really good with primary school-aged children. ^_^