Tips to Tech Shop for Teens

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Kids of all ages are asking Santa for tech gifts this year. We are living in a digital world!

My 4-year-old wants his own iPad. Whether to hang my head in shame or consider it just part of his generation, I’m not sure. He won’t be getting that, but he may get a tablet that’s a little more age-appropriate if Santa keeps him on the good list.

If you are shopping for a laptop or tablet for a tween or teen, there are a many choices, so do your homework before you buy. There are lots for less than $300, but make sure you’re getting a device that meets your child’s needs with these tips from Regina Lewis, a tech trend expert and former host of DIY Network’s Tech Out My House.

1. Make sure the device you select is homework compatible. Before you even get to the store, you should think about what you want your child to get out of this device. If schoolwork is a priority then make sure the tablet or laptop is homework compatible. For most schools, the standard for documents is Microsoft Office, which includes programs like Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Chromebooks can’t install any Windows programs including Office and it’s also difficult to print or connect to your other devices – making it a more challenging fit for students.

Some of the top picks for laptops that better meet the needs of students are the full-sized 15-inch Dell Inspirion and the 11-inch ASUS X200CA. In the tablet category for less than $300, it’s tough to find a tablet that beats the Dell Venue 8 Pro. It’s a full-fledged PC in a super-portable tablet body.

2. Look for devices that are school compatible. Will your child be using the laptop or tablet both at home and at school? If so check in with your school’s technology expert to understand what programs they will be using so that you don’t end up with a device that limits your child’s productivity when they are at school.

3. Look for technology that grows with your child. The ASUS T100 “Transformerbook” is a convertible Windows device that’s a laptop when you need it, but has a display that detaches into a lightweight tablet all for as little as $299. It’s the best of both worlds and at a price point that won’t break the bank.

4. Be aware of what else these devices do. Chromebooks are designed to keep users online using Google services so the company can serve ads based on their web searches, and the content of their emails and chats. The low price point of these devices depends on those ads — but at what cost to your children’s privacy?

5. Cheapest device isn’t always the best value. Cheapest doesn’t always equal the best value. Often the cheapest devices don’t do everything you want or need them to do and you end up spending more in the long run because you don’t want to compromise your productivity. Laptops and tablets are big purchase decisions — even at these attractive price — make sure you are getting one with the functionality your child needs today and what you anticipate they will need tomorrow and you will likely end up with a device that doesn’t need to be replaced as often as your teen son’s sneakers.