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Is your kid old enough to have a tablet?

I'm the Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, and I started blogging to help families navigate the complex world of media and technology in kids' lives. I'm a family-technology expert who specializes in approaching media literacy is...

You may think you need a tablet to keep your child entertained and learning. Think again

Tablets are a cinch to use and super portable, and they run a huge array of apps that engage kids' minds — and sometimes their bodies — in a variety of ways.

Studies show that kids can learn from apps, and exposure to digital tools such as tablets and computers can provide a helpful boost, especially for kids with fewer overall resources. But so long as kids have some exposure to the digital world and a variety of learning opportunities in their lives, they don't need tablets.

Consider why you want to get the device. Is it to get them prepped for school? Is it to keep them entertained? Is it to let them practice their academic skills? Tablets can do all these things — but they can't do them alone. Choosing quality apps geared toward your kids' ages, setting realistic expectations, and supporting your kids' learning both on — and off — the device are key.

A wide variety of tablets is on the market, including ones specifically made for young children. Things to look for include cost, ease of use, the variety and price of available apps, and longevity. You'll want something that, as much as possible, can grow a few years with your child.

Choosing and downloading apps is the fun part. Read reviews and watch demos, if they're available. Note how the apps engage your child. The interaction that tablets and well-designed apps offer kids — including the ability to discover new things, follow their interests, satisfy their curiosity and be rewarded for effort — is what helps kids learn.

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