It’s August, and more schools are heading back into session with every passing week. For many children, “in session” means actively working online at least some portion of every week. If you are a parent of a 1:1 school system, you’re likely receiving directions from your child’s school about the device your child will use, and there’s a 60% chance that device will be a Chromebook.
If your school isn’t providing a device, or you’re interested to purchase a Chromebook for your family, we’ve pulled together 5 strategies for picking the right Chromebook for kids:
Your Chromebook is going to take a few tumbles, especially if you have a middle school student. Determine to either insist on a standardized drop test rating, or purchase a Chromebook “always-on” case that attaches to the Chromebook itself.
4 GB of RAM, minimum
There are still a few “deals” out there on Chromebooks with 2 GB of RAM. That’s way too low, given the way the Internet continues to advance. Web browsers are demanding more and more RAM to support both the needs of webpages as well as the series of extensions many of us add to customize our experience of the Internet. 4 GB is a minimum.
Current year’s models only
Another “cost saving” strategy might be purchasing a Chromebook that’s a year or two old. That’s a dangerous stance, as microprocessor technology improves dramatically each and every year. A machine with 4 GB of RAM two years ago will likely not perform as fast as one with the same amount of RAM this year, due to improvements in CPU performance. Pick a model as modern as your budget will allow.
The rotating 4: screen, webcam, keyboard, and trackpad
There’s only so many functional pieces of a laptop that a company can cut costs on and still make sales quotas. In order to hit a $200 – $300 price point, most Chromebooks will deliver one or two of the above features with excellence and scrape by with tolerable performance in the others. Search “best Chromebooks of the year” and you’ll see how this plays out in a given set of budget options. Determine what feature you care about most and be willing to give on the others.
Finally, one hidden element to purchasing any Chromebook for kids isn’t physically connected to the Chromebook at all – the content filter that protects your child’s experience of a device that’s largely dependent on the Internet. There are two general routes to providing this protection: router-based filtering and account-based filtering.
Router-based filtering is enabled by purchasing an wireless router with content filtering abilities that connects to your Internet modem, like the Netgear Orbi. Benefits to this approach are that protection policies are enforced on every device that connects to your Wifi and most systems allow custom profiles for every device. Limitations are that the profile system locks devices to specific people (making sharing difficult) and that the filtering works only when the devices are used at home.
Account-based filtering attaches content filtering policies to the accounts used to log in to the Chromebook. There’s a little more setup involved with this approach (an example from one provider, Bark.us), but this gives the primary benefit of providing protection wherever your child logs in to the device. The biggest limitation of this strategy is the price: account-based filtering typically comes with a monthly subscription of some type.
The following Chromebooks are owned by or purchased by GadellNet employees, and might provide a jumping-off point for your own research.