Do Your Kids Need Their Own Tablets?

As the technical director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, people always ask me "What exactly is a 'kid tablet'? Does my kid need one?"

Before I answer, let's define exactly what they are: 'Kid tablets' operate like adult versions, except most come pre-loaded with child-friendly content (like age-appropriate apps and games), have easy-to-set parental controls, and are durable enough to take a few bumps and bruises. 

When we recently tested a few, the two that came out on top were the LeapPad Ultra($130) and the Nabi 2 ($179). The LeapPad Ultra is a great learning tool for kids 4 to 9. It has a rubberized exterior for durability, and a robust catalog of educational apps. The Nabi 2 was another easy-to-use crowd pleaser, as it allows parents to swap between kid-mode and adult-mode.

So, should you get one? If you want your kids to learn to use technology, but would rather not spend time and energy monitoring how they use yours (lest one errant swipe deletes all of your photos!), I say go for it. In fact, you can turn off the parental controls on many kid versions, so it might be a good purchase for you, too.

But if you're still leaning towards an 'adult tablet' for your family, just make sure to buy a protective case and use the setting to manage how your child uses the device. For example, the Kindle Fire offers what they call FreeTime Unlimited ($3 to $10 per month), which comes with tons of kid-friendly and educational content with no ads, and no in-app purchases.