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Which device is which? A guide for kids aged kinder to year 12.

Bern has come to the conclusion that, when it comes to kids, one device certainly does not fit all.

I have three children, all ranging in age from 7 – 14 and I have quickly come to the conclusion that one device certainly does not fit all.

They all need so very different things from a computer whether it be for personal or school use and I, as their parent, have been struggling to understand which one fitted which child best and for what reason.

This is made even more difficult when all the 7 year old wants to do is pretend he is a catapulted angry bird or a ninja who enjoys slicing and dicing fruit. Meanwhile, my 14 year old daughter is suddenly having to submit pie charts and assignments heavily featuring trigonometry.

And, if I’m honest, I’ve found the process of trying to work out what device is necessary or suited best to each age bracket, both daunting and quite confusing. I guess the thing is, they are all at very different educational milestones in their schooling lives. My seven year old for example, started school only a few years ago and only occasionally requires the use of a device as he still mostly reads and writes without the assistance of a computer. My eldest who is year 9 on the other hand, requires her laptop for almost everything that she does.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Intel. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

Bern with her two youngest kids.

So then how can we know what we are looking for? Not only which device suits which child but also the necessary memory and processing system required. I, like most people, cannot afford to get this wrong and I simply cannot afford to replace these on a constant basis.

We’ve all been there though, in the huge computer department of the mega store, overwhelmed and harassed by salespeople who have automatically sized us up based on our tech savvy (or lack thereof) and tried to flog us inappropriate products based on the potential commission they could stand to earn from us.

This is why I looked into it and discovered that all devices span all age groups but the way in which they can be used, differs.

For instance, what is the difference between an Ultrabook and a laptop? How much RAM is required? Do they all need internet accessibility? Finding the ideal tablet or laptop can be time-consuming. There’s a lot to consider, but I’m here to help simplify the process for you. The following are our suggestions on what to look for in a great school device.

Years K-4

My seven year old who is Year 2, doesn’t actually have his own device yet. He does however, have exclusive use of the tablet that I rarely use. As a writer I find I pretty much only use my laptop. I need a keyboard and a computer that is fast and intelligent. When I was overseas though, I wanted to have something I could pack into my napsack, make notes on, browse the Internet and possibly take photos on. When I returned home though, by default, this became his.

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I’d say the great thing about these tablets is that younger kids can get more out of them as a learning experience than we ever realised possible. There are less unnecessary components to get in their way of their lust for apps and basic games. At this age, they are a very tactile and after a hands on experience. You can get great spelling and maths games that work so well in those formats.

Younger kids can get more out of tablets as a learning experience than we ever realised possible

Storage can be quite low on a tablet and if your children want to start using or exploring video and photo apps, that will start to eat up storage quickly. It’s very hard to expand storage on a tablet, so opting for a slightly bigger storage option when you buy is good if you want that tablet to stay in the family for a good few years. A minimum of 32GB is recommended. These generally come with an inbuilt Wi-Fi connection. Cellular probably isn’t necessary unless you intend on purchasing a sim card and have no other way of connecting to the internet when you are out of your own home.

Years 5 – 8

My 11 year old (in year 5) has a laptop that he is supposed to use for school projects, which he does but let’s face it, mainly he just uses it to play games on. And when I say games, I mean Minecraft. If you want to witness an 11 year old melt down like a 2 year old without a daytime nap, all you need to do is watch one of them trying to deal with a slowdown or stall in their gaming due to low memory or processing power. Let me tell you, it’s not pretty.

The thing I have learnt is that they need at this age, regardless of the device they choose to use, be it a tablet, a laptop or Ultrabook, is a decent processor and RAM. And no, I don’t mean male sheep, I mean memory. And nothing less than 8GBs. The more RAM, and video memory, you can get or afford, the better your computer will be at handling lots of programs running at once. A decent amount of RAM, video memory, and a good processor (an Intel Core i3 or equivalent is a good starting place) are basically the holy trinity you need to keep in mind when shopping for a laptop that won’t crash mid-epic Minecraft battle.

You’ll see the word ‘Ultrabook’ thrown around a lot. This is becoming the new generation of laptop, thin and light, made to be carried around all day but still gives you lots of processing power. Think about having your child carrying around a lot of weight all day on their shoulder or in their backpack. 500g can make a big difference. So as your children head towards the upper end of this age group, this is also something to consider. PLEASE invest in a good case and grab the best warranty available.

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For getting real ‘work’ done, Bern recommends a laptop with a real keyboard and mouse.

Years 9 – 12 

I have quite the clumsy 14 year old. My daughter, after having her school supplied laptop (researched and chosen by her High School) for only two days, tripped and fell on top of it. Miraculously, it survived and received no damages. Apparently this is because the school deliberately chose a laptop with a SSD (solid-state drive) which makes it much more durable. If your kids bounce their bags around a lot (let’s face it, which one of them doesn’t) an old traditional ‘hard drive’ (HDD) could be damaged and they could lose all of their work, which obviously, is not ideal.

But if you have the choice and if they prefer a tablet over a laptop, get a cover with a Bluetooth keyboard in it and ensure it has the Office Suite on it so they can do their assignments properly. And ensure they have at least 32GB of memory to save all their school assignments.

Again, here, memory and a high performing processor is important. Your child in these upper high school years will be using software programs like Photoshop or video editing where they will need to work with large files. For software programs like this, a combination of decent memory and a slightly more advanced processor than laptops for juniors is needed. Ask for an Intel Core i5 or equivalent and that should cover most of their needs. However, if you have a young Baz Luhrmann on your hands and know your teenager is going to be doing a lot of video editing, an Intel Core i7 or equivalent is best. It is essential that your child has the right tools to complete the work that they need to do, both efficiently and without hindrance.

As for the actual device, I think for getting real ‘work’ done, a laptop is still far better – a real keyboard and mouse lets someone work much faster when writing long form work, like a school essay or project report.

I think what we can take away from all of the above is that portability and durability is key to choosing a device fit for school aged kids and teens. On the  slightly techier side of things, you need to be aware of the memory and processing demands your child will have.

Be sure to share the tips that have worked best for you!

Here’s something to make you feel better the fact that your child may just beat you in this one thing…

A growing number of schools are adopting a ‘bring your own’ policy, which lets students use their own laptop or tablet in the classroom. This makes it more important than ever to choose the right device for your children. 

The team at Intel Australia have put together a simple guide to help you pick a great tablet or laptop or even a versatile ‘2 in 1’ device that’s both a tablet and a laptop. 

Visit intel.com.au/forschool to find out what really matters when choosing a device for school.