Should children be exposed to screens? Screen time restrictions and screen learning have been hot topics in the recent past, as parents try to find a healthy balance between giving their children digital access and setting boundaries. Even the World Health Organisation took note and issued guidelines in April 2019, recommending a maximum of one hour of screen time for children aged two to four.
In that hour, if children are able to engage in puzzles, games and e-books through a device that ensures their privacy and safety, there’s no better digital learning tool for them than a tablet.
Mums and dads can find child-friendly tablets in the market, those that come with pre-installed games and educational apps, unlike flagship models geared towards adults.
"A kid's tablet usually has a minimum screen size of eight inches, and comes with pre-installed applications. Most models have built-in parental controls with options to monitor and restrict use," said Muhammed Shameer, IT support and partner at Dubai-based repair store Techmate Computers, who's been in the industry for 16 years.
According to our expert, parents should look for a strong chassis or add a durable case designed for kids. Other features to pay attention to should be the display - a touch screen that's too sensitive can be frustrating for small fingers. And, finally, the RAM (random access memory) must be at least 2GB, which is sufficient for young users as "they're not going to use multiple apps at the same time".
Software durability will be another concern for parents, who might want to future-proof the tablet for school. In this case, Shameer suggests flagship devices from Apple and Samsung that can last for years to come.
Find his detailed recommendations for little ones below, where we've researched the best tablets, assessing aspects like built-in parent accounts, privacy controls, timers and pre-selected websites or apps that are age-appropriate.
1. Best Overall: Apple 2022 10.9-inch iPad (10th Generation)
- Family Sharing makes it easier to monitor more than one child
- Set up age restrictions, and download and purchase approvals
- Limit and review screen time from your device
- 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display
- Battery life of up to 10 hours
- Parents have to preload content
- Family Sharing only works with an Apple ecosystem
Keeping durability, reliability and school specifications in mind, the Apple iPad (10th Generation) is unbeatable, says Shameer. Granted, it's a pricier option than most on this list, but mums and dads get peace of mind with Apple's Family Sharing ecosystem. As you set up your child's iPad, you'll be prompted with options to fix age-related restrictions, downtime for apps, communication restrictions and in-app purchase approvals. The latest iPad runs on the iPadOS 16, so you can expect Apple's most advanced controls, yet. The A14 Bionic chip has plenty of processing and graphics support to take on any school assignment in the future. Its large 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display will also be a welcome change from small smartphone screens. Even on long flights with heavy use, the battery life goes on for up to 10 hours per charge. Shameer does caution parents that you can't upgrade the storage, so it's important to pick a model with sufficient ROM (which can be expanded with iCloud, if needed). However, the device should last you seven years, he adds.
Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh133.25 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh114, a one-year accidental damage protection for Dh190, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh242.
2. Best Family Tablet: Lenovo Tab M9
- Comes with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity
- 13-hour battery life
- Blue light filter
- Google Kids Space with appropriate content and parental controls
- Comes with three years of security updates
- Apps can't be transferred to the microSD card, say reviewers
The Lenovo Tab M9 is a smart choice if you want your household to have just one, shared tablet. Built for passing around from person to person, the Tab M9 identifies family members by their dedicated profiles. This version also comes with cellular connectivity and a SIM card slot for text messaging and phone calls. In the case of children, there's the Google Kids Space on the Android tablet – a safe environment for kids, where they can access a library of age-appropriate content, from apps to books. All recommended content is carefully curated by Google, with input from teachers and experts. The space is connected to Family Link, which lets parents control screen time limits from their own devices, be it iOS or Android. The device’s eye-protection mode activates automatically to filter out blue light that strains the eyes. When schools resume again, the M9 can come in handy for online coursework, since it has a 2MP front-facing camera, as well as a rear 8MP camera. Like the iPad, the tablet maxes out its storage capacity at 64GB, but the microSD card allows for instant expansion. Reviewers say the processor is fast enough for kids, and others use it to watch movies, thanks to its Dolby Atmos speakers.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh29, a one-year damage protection for Dh48, and a one-year extended warranty plus two years of damage protection for Dh61.
3. Best for School: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
- Note-taking features on running videos
- Samsung Kids mode
- 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage
- 10.4-inch display
- Comes with S Pen
- Works well with the Samsung Anymode Kids Tablet Case (not included)
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S6 Lite should be your go-to device, if your child's school encourages tablets in classes. Superior for its note-taking capabilities and lightweight, portable body, the tablet comes with a large 10.4-inch display and Samsung's magnetic S Pen to go with it. Watch your children consolidate class material better by doodling and adding colours to their lecture notes. At home, they can watch recorded lectures and take down notes simultaneously on the screen using Samsung Notes. The tablet's 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera are also worth mentioning. Its large 64GB capacity makes way for more child-friendly content via the pre-loaded Samsung Kids mode, a kids-safe environment where parents can set limits on playtime and restrict certain access. Fun mascots will greet your little ones, like Crocro the crocodile and Lisa the songbird, wherever they go on the tablet. Teach them basic math, science and critical thinking skills through gaming adventures with their new playmates. Check out other school tablets.
Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh83.25 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh57, a one-year damage protection for Dh95, and a one-year extended warranty plus two years of damage protection for Dh121.
4. Best for Games: G-TiDE Kids Tablet, Pink
- Large 10-inch display
- Up to 12 hours of battery life
- 5MP front camera and 8MP rear camera
- Klap app includes pre-loaded games library and parental controls
- Protective case with stand
- Battery can drain fast, according to reviews
G-Tide's kids tablet has a large 10.1-inch screen, an Android 11 Go quad-core processor and an extensive library of age-appropriate apps to keep the young ones busy. The 2GB RAM and 32GB storage allow just enough space for running pre-loaded games in the Klap app without a hitch. The learning app offers content that's engaging and educational at the same time, from painting to arithmetic-based games. Here, parents can also create and customise profiles for their children's accounts, select child-friendly content and control screen time. You can fire up the Google Play Store for more options, when your child outgrows the pre-installed library. Take this device along to grocery runs or long drives because the battery can stretch to 12 hours, depending on usage, and charges fairly quickly with a Type-C cable. The device comes in a thick protective case with an adjustable 270-degree stand to safeguard it from butter fingers and accidental falls.
5. Best for Younger Kids: LeapFrog LeapPad Academy Kids’ Learning Tablet
- Tough shell that is drop-proof
- Kickstand for a hands-free experience
- Targets early education via learning apps
- Comes preloaded with 20 apps
- Expensive apps
- Can be slow, per reviews
Choosing a tablet for toddlers is far from easy, but the LeapFrog's LeapPad alleviates most concerns. This kid-friendly Android tablet is ideal for ages three to eight, comes in a tough case with a seven-inch shatter-safe screen, and only features learning apps. The built-in kickstand frees up children’s hands and allows multiple people to engage with its apps at the same time. Designed for early education, the tablet has a variety of learning content that engage skills from core subject areas, like coding, maths, science, reading and writing. It's an exciting tool for pre-schoolers, who get to craft their own virtual world with the sun rising and falling as time and weather change on the screen. Parental controls allow you to limit screen time, add profiles for more than one child and download more apps when their kids are ready. Reviewers say the tablet has survived a few drops, and the pre-installed apps make learning fun and easy. They do note that purchasing new games can be quite expensive.
Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh47 for 12 months with select banks.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.