Whether your child is 5 or 15, here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when buying a kids' computer.
Step 1: Consider a child's computer If you're choosing a computer for a preschooler, consider getting a children's computer -- one preloaded with content geared to kids and containing a feature that blocks them from accessing inappropriate content.
Step 2: Decide between a desktop and a laptop Decide between a desktop and a laptop. Desktops are cheaper and easier to upgrade, while laptops are portable.
Step 3: Make it school-compatible If your child is school age, find out what kind of computers their school uses -- PCs or Macs -- so you can choose a kids' computer that's compatible.
TIP: When you set up your child's login, make sure they don't have access to Administrator mode, which allows them to install programs and change settings.
Step 4: Consider child-friendly features Investigate child-friendly features and accessories like a water-resistant keyboard or keyboard cover and a scratch-resistant screen. If you go with a laptop, invest in a strong carrying case to protect the computer from bangs and falls.
TIP: A travel-size mouse is often the perfect size for small hands.
Step 5: Outfit your tweens If you're choosing a computer for a tween or teen who plays video games, look for a desktop with a 512 MB or larger graphics card, and a high-resolution monitor that's at least 19 inches.
Step 6: Ask about parental controls Ask if any built-in parental controls come with the computer. If the machine you're considering doesn't have one of the parental-control features you'd like, ask if it can be purchased separately -- because making sure your children are safe online can be the most important factor in choosing a kids' computer.
FACT: Many educators believe 2 years old is the ideal age to introduce children to computers.