They are going back to school! And as we all know, computers for school aged children are a necessity of today’s world.  Ask any child (as well as his or her parents) about the need for a personal computer and the savvy kid will list half-a-dozen reasons why sharing a family computer is a “CAN-NOT-DO!”  And the computer that is perfect for her high school brother may not be the best choice for the fourth or fifth-grader.  So UrbanMommies has come up with some “CAN-DO” computer recommendations for younger students.

First thing first: You need to decide on what kind of computer makes sense for your family:  a desktop or a laptop.  Prices and capabilities vary based on this decision.

Desktop Computers for Kids

Let’s start with our favorite picks for the desk-top version:  We’ve found that many families are more willing to invest in a new computer if it’s “a family” one.  Yes, it’s true, they have to stay in one place, but they are user friendly: most desktops can be used for schoolwork as well as the more mundane family demands (like balancing one’s checkbook or ordering clothes online, for instance.)

We checked Consumer Reports, and agree with their suggestions.  Depending on how much you want to spend, there are two desktop computers to consider for your family:

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High-end: The HP TouchSmart 520-1165xt ($1,000) is an all-in-one desktop with a 23-inch HD touch screen that can actually tilt back up to 30 degrees, so you can adjust it to your liking. It has excellent performance and ergonomics, and it’s powered by Intel’s third-generation quad-core processor, the Core i5. Other nifty features include a built-in memory-card reader and a Blu-ray reader.

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Budget: The Dell XPS 8500 i5 full-size desktop comes in at a lower price ($750) but still delivers on many features. Its performance is excellent, and versatility and ergonomics are very good. And like the high-end HP TouchSmart, it uses the Intel Core i5 processor. If your kids (or you) like to play games, this one’s plenty powerful. Just note that you’ll need a separate monitor

Laptop Computers for Kids

The LapTop’s for Me:
Okay, but what if your family is like mine and is “geographically challenged” (i.e. Doesn’t have space for a desktop) and needs a child-centric computer?  Time to explore investing in a laptop.  Not surprisingly computer manufacturers are making machines that address the needs of younger children while at the same time helping parents keep their children safe from cyber-predators.

Toshiba Satellite L735 Laptop for Kids

Toshiba Satellite L735 Laptop for Kids: We’ve been hearing great things about Toshiba’s Satellite laptops.  These PCs are tailor-made for school aged kids and younger family members and for parents who want greater control over what their children see, do and enjoy.

CONNECTIVITY FEATURES: includes a Webcam and microphone for chatting, integrated Wi-Fi®, making it easy to tap into a home network and use the PC all around the house.

KID SAFE WEB BROWSING: Parents can leave the room and abandon concerns about unsafe web surfing.  It’s pre-loaded with KidZui®; a child-safe and award-winning web browser which allows children to view pre-screened content or even play kid-friendly online games.

A COLORFUL KID-FRIENDLY DESIGN:fused with a design that can stand up to little hands. With a colorful yet resilient textured finish to fight fingerprints, it is accented by bright green bumpers. It also has a wipe-able keyboard, one-touch F-keys to simplify common tasks & an Impact-Smart Hard Drive to help prevent data loss. Even the size is perfect for young ones—a compact yet well-proportioned 13.3”.

Disney Netpal by ASUS

 Disney Netpal by ASUS:  
Like the Satellite L735 Laptop for Kids, this is a laptop developed with parents and kids in mind.
DURABLE with a reinforced mechanical design. The laptop has an 8.9-inch LCD display, Wi-Fi capabilities, Windows XP Home, and kid-friendly software featuring Disney characters and icons in stunning visual environments.

PARENTAL CONTROLs include more than 40 robust options. The browsers and email have extra filters to assure that parents are able to control online safety and content for their children, and can easily select with whom their children can correspond via email.

Disney Netpal by ASUS

The DISNEY DESKTOP “gadget tray” offers a creatively designed 2D menu displaying a Disney-themed browser and a robust suite widgets and applications. It comes in two colors: Princess Pink for girls and Magic Blue for boys.
BATTERY LIFE: Up to 5 hours.
Link:  We struggled to find this EXACT model online.  Our resources told us that this model could be found in Disney stores.  We found an updated (non-Disney) version on online shopping sites.

Intel Classmate Convertible PC



Intel Classmate Convertible PC
TOUCHSCREEN: We loved the 10 inch swivel touchscreen as well as the webcam panel which can be turned up to 180 degrees.
The WATERPROOF KEYBOARD, as well as the fact that the computer is drop resistant was a huge selling point for those of us whose kids aren’t as careful as parents would like.

ENHANCED SECURITY AND THEFT DETERRENCE as well as enhanced educational features for collaborative.

TECH INFO: Comes with a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, an 8.9-inch touchscreen, 60 GB hard drive, and 1 GB RAM. You can even buy the Intel-powered clamshell classmate PC model.

For those of us with pre-school and kindergarten age children there are also “toy laptops for kids” which have few multimedia features such as drawing tools, calculation programs, and attractive or themed exteriors. Here’s a list of a few that we discovered:  PeeWee Pivot 2.0, VTech Double Vision Notebook, Barbie B-Smart Laptop, Zipit Wireless Messenger 2 (Z2),Hot Wheels Accelerator Laptop (JW88)

Other consumer friendly options when it’s not the right time to commit to buying a new computer:
Finally, if you are not ready to commit to buying your student a computer and/or it’s not in this year’s budget, there are other options to consider such as purchasing an inexpensive entry-level laptop and install student-specific applications.

Final Note : We know that buying a computer is an investment. When doing your research and shopping, make sure that you are checking school Web sites and computer manufacturer websites for possible buying programs, student discounts or additional bonus products not always available to the average user.

– Renee Keats