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Your kid’s first computer: What to look for

Kristin Chessman is a freelance writer, editor and mom from Southern California with a passion for travel, fashion, Disney, the beach, Italian food and all-things celebrity. Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinChessman.

Computers for kids

Technology is everywhere -- from your child’s classroom to their gaming console. For many kids, learning how to use a computer isn’t just a helpful skill, it’s a requirement for success. Kid-friendly computers are the perfect solution to help teach your kid the skills they need while keeping them safe online. Keep reading to find out what to look for when shopping for your kid’s first computer.

Kid on computer

Desktop or Laptop?

Laptops are growing in popularity thanks to their portability. But is a laptop the right choice for your child? Keep in mind that a desktop PC is stationary, while a laptop can be moved anywhere. Some families choose not to purchase laptops in order to have more control over how much time kids spend online, and to monitor their activity. Figure out what works for your family, and set basic ground rules for computer usage depending on your decision.

10 Things you should know about kids and computers >>

Computer shoppingSafety

Online safety is a top concern for many parents. Keep kids safe online by selecting a computer with filtering software already installed. The Geek Squad recommends looking for a software like Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, NetNanny or CyberNanny. According to the Geek Squad, "These programs can help your kids surf the Internet safely, without being exposed to any hazardous material."

Also, look for computers with a kid-friendly Internet browser, like KidZui, built to keep your little learner safe online. The First Spark kids PC from BestBuy includes a free one-year subscription to both Net Nanny and KidZui.

Kids on the internet: Safety tips >>

Durability

Kids aren't exactly gentle when it comes to handling technology. When you're shopping for your kid's first computer, look for built-to-last features like a wipeable keyboard. An easy-to-clean machine will save you headaches and stress down the line. Though most kid-friendly PCs aren't exactly spill-resistant, some do offer a rubber overlay to keep crumbs from dropping into the cracks.

Size

Size is another factor to think about when shopping for a kid's computer. Many kid-friendly computers feature 10-inch displays, which is fine when your child's younger, but won't necessarily grow with them, especially as they enter high school. Opt for a 13 or 15-inch display with a full-size keyboard to accommodate your youngster's size and leave room to grow.

Software needs

When shopping for your kid's first computer, think about their software needs. Look for computers offering anti-virus and anti-spyware software to protect your PC from the start. If you have a school-age child, you'll want a good word processing system and spreadsheet program. If your teen is a budding film-maker, look for a computer with top-notch video editing software.

Top 10 safe gadgets for kids >>

Price

Price is important when selecting your kid's first computer. Unfortunately, just like clothes, kids tend to grow out of technology as they age. So, don't blow your salary on a computer that can't grow with your child. Expect kid-centric laptops to start around $500.

More on computers and kids

6 Educational gadgets for kids
Kids and computers: An age appropriate guide
Teaching kids about computer viruses

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