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When Should You Buy Your Kid A Laptop?

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the diapers-would-make-the-thing-hard-to-use dept.

Portables 856

GuitarNeophyte writes "Marketwatch News reports that some people say that we should be buying our kids laptop computers well before they get into the higher education realm. Even as early as middle school. From the article: 'These days, it's almost unquestioned that college-bound students will tote laptops back to school. For parents of high school and middle school kids, the decision to invest in a laptop is far from given.'"

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Worked for me (5, Informative)

bigwavejas (678602) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278102)

With the affordability of laptops I opted to purchase my child one as opposed to an Xbox or PS2. My thinking was it allowed him not only to play games, but also familiarize himself with the keyboard, internet, word processing program, etc. He quickly became proficient and amazed me how much I actually learned from *him* about computers. I was a bit reluctant at first letting him use the internet; however, we had a discussion on what's acceptable and I have parental control on the internet. I think in today's society you're doing your kid an injustice if you wait until their high school years to introduce them to this technology.

Re:Worked for me (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278181)

Pr0n is a strong motivator to learning to use a computer.

Re:Worked for me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278188)

I'm sure your kid would've amazed you with a desktop as well...I figure laptops are not necessary for children to be exposed to the internet & computing.

& as far as laptops for college? Unnecessary. I hated it when people were play solitaire in front of me while the prof was attempting to teach.

Re:Worked for me (3, Interesting)

SimilarityEngine (892055) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278194)

I'm with you. As soon as my son is a little older (he's 13 months now), I'm making sure he knows his way around a computer. Can't see the point of waiting until they reach high-school age. It would be like not teaching your kid to read until 13 years old, back in the mid-20th century.

Kids are best at learning when they're young, especially when it comes to languages. I haven't seen any research on this, but I imagine that also applies to learning the "vocabulary" of computers (and almost certainly to programming languages).

Re:Worked for me (1)

cbrocious (764766) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278259)

Since programming is not merely a vocabulary, but also a method of doing things, it would be interesting to see how well young kids pick it up.

wow I didn't need no parental controls. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278200)

When I was a kid I looked at alot of porno and it didn't bother me at all. You are being an asshole by censoring the internet.

Re:Worked for me (4, Insightful)

Draknor (745036) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278212)

Why a laptop, though? As cheap as laptops are, desktops are cheaper and more upgradeable. You can buy your kid a desktop computer during the middle school years, and upgrade it occassionally until the kid gets to high school or college and needs (or wants) a laptop or a faster gaming machine.

I had a laptop for a bit in high school, purchased used with my own money. It was fun, no doubt, but it wasn't something I really made full use of until college & work. That's when the portability of a laptop really kicked in as a necessity for me. Do students really need that kind of portability?

At any rate, I do agree with the notion of having a computer instead of an xbox or PS2 - at least, that's worked for me. Of course, a lot of friends had gaming consoles so I could just mooch off of them :)

Re:Worked for me (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278223)

"I think in today's society you're doing your kid an injustice if you wait until their high school years to introduce them to this technology." I taotally agree, but I don't think that a laptop is nessecerally the best way to do this. Prsonally I think a desktop PC is a much better way, I don't use laptops, I don't see the reason. I find tht a desk top PC, is a much better use of resourses because it allows for everything a laptop can do added to the fact that it's cheaper to upgrade (can you upgrade a laptop?). and the portability of a laptop can be achieved with the addition USB of a flash drive; usually for data, but IMO soon we'll be installing Operating systems and applications on them, and running everything from there, using esentially dumb terminals to run them off. You'll essentially have a PC the size of a large key fob.

Re:Worked for me (5, Insightful)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278226)

My first laptop I got for my senior year of high school. I didn't have parents who just went out and bought me expensive computer equipment, of course, and that's why I'm kind of laughing at this article.

The only way for the kid to really grasp the value of his new laptop is if he works his ass off all summer to earn the money to buy it himself.

Re:Worked for me (1)

tighr (793277) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278258)

Why wouldn't you simply buy your child a desktop? I know that all the things you stated in favor of your child's laptop are things that can be learned from a traditional desktop as well. I learned to type on my father's Commodore 64, I learned the internet on our 486DX2 66, and by the time we had our first Pentium III I was either at or past his own level.

Now that I'm graduating college, I've built several of my own computers and own a laptop that my college (http://www.rose-hulman.edu/ [rose-hulman.edu] ) requires incoming freshman to have. I feel like my experience with computers as a child prepared me for owning a laptop. I never felt left out because I had never had the portability or usability of a laptop.

Buying a laptop vs. buying a computer (2, Insightful)

sczimme (603413) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278268)

With the affordability of laptops I opted to purchase my child one as opposed to an Xbox or PS2. My thinking was it allowed him not only to play games, but also familiarize himself with the keyboard, internet, word processing program, etc.

Which is great, but does he carry it back+forth to school and/or use it during class? I believe that's the more specific topic under discussion. From the article:

But with laptop prices coming down, children's demands heating up and parents' urge to provide all they can to further their child's education, it's likely more families are toying with the idea of buying portable computing devices for their kids.

The headline should probably read "When Should Your Kid Start Using a Laptop in School?" or similar.

Is this an ask Slashdot? (0)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278106)

Hey kids... when did your mommies and daddies buy you your laptop computer?

Re:Is this an ask Slashdot? (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278209)

Personally, I never had my parents buy me a laptop... most of what I own was purchased by me because I worked since I was 16 years old.

A kid will be more likely to take care of their expensive laptop if they've earned and payed for it themselves.

When they can afford one (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278107)

When they are old enough for a part-time job so they can replace it after they break it.

Re:When they can afford one (1)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278219)

Word. I've got four kids - 1, 4, 5, and 7. I just built my 7-year old daughter a desktop PC. So far, they've already managed to knock it over a few times either fighting over it (fortunately it still works). She knows that when she learns to repsect the PC and do her schoolwork on it, that she'll get something cooler. Having it compartmentalized (as a desktop) has been helpful also in teaching her about what each part does - the keyboard, the tower, etc and has tweaked her interest in learning about it more. You can't really teach that kind of stuff looking at a laptop. I have enough trouble not dropping my own laptop to want to worry about her with one.

Easy Answer (4, Insightful)

Jackdaw Rookery (696327) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278109)

When your kid is responsible enough to have a laptop and look after it.

Until then; you get an abicus, son.

Bully (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278111)

Who's going to pay for the damage when the school bully breaks yet another childs' laptop?

Re:Bully (4, Funny)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278140)

Other kids retaliate by stealing the bully's identity and linking him to Islamic radical websites.

Welcome to the new future.

Re:Bully (1)

th3space (531154) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278143)

Damn you Rockstar!! Your game isn't even out yet, and it's already corrupting the precious commodity that is our children! When, oh when will the madness stop?

Re:Bully (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278156)

The laptop is for home. I wouldn't bring that thing to school!

Re:Bully (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278167)

The bully's parents.

What, do you think the school system, and thus taxpayers, pays to replace items destroyed by a bully?

Re:Bully (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278218)

The bully's parents.

I can tell you right now that if your stupid little brat is too weak and clusmy to protect his laptop from an accident allegedly caused by my child you can go and screw yourself. Whadda ya gonna do about it? Huh?

Re:Bully (1)

miscGeek (594829) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278182)

The bully's parents of course.

Re:Bully (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278244)

1) Bully breaks laptop.
2) Sell bullies organs on ebay to Organised Crime Member (OCM).
3) OCM picks up organs. (Bully might protest a bit)
4) Buy newer and better laptop!

Re:Bully (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278216)

The laptop should have insurance to get it replaced in case that happens. Regardless, a police report should be filed and the school should discpline the bully.

When they upgrade the laptops at work (1)

Tikicult (901090) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278125)

and IS gets the 1st shot at buying the old ones! (Or when 1 breaks and can be easily fixed at home with a little JB Weld)

Thats easy (4, Insightful)

el_womble (779715) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278126)

You buy a kid a laptop when they are so cheap that you can afford to buy a new one every month. You know they're going to get broken, stolen, lost etc.

keep their monitor in view (5, Insightful)

jwachter (319790) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278129)

Until you trust your kids to browse the internet and use their computer responsibly, give them a desktop and orient its monitor so that it can be seen by you and your spouse when you casually walk by. (BTW this means do *not* let them have a computer in their bedroom!)

Giving them a laptop to take to their friends' houses is just inviting them to access all sorts of nasty stuff.

The best possible choice? Set up your offspring's computer(s) in your own home office. What you loose in distraction, you'll gain in piece of mind and time spent with them.

Re:keep their monitor in view (-1)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278241)

What's with all the censorship? If you have raised your child properly it should be able to distinguish what is good and what isn't. Just because a child seens a building on fire doesn't mean it's going to burn the house down. Just like movies, I was watching violent ones (well, not more violent than GTA, admittedly) and I never once killed my parents.

Re:keep their monitor in view (2, Insightful)

CajunElder (787443) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278279)

What are you doing posting to Slashdot? Your comment made perfect sense. Don't you know you are only supposed to beat old jokes to death, and bash Microsoft here?

Seriously, I think you are exactly right. Kids don't need internet access in their rooms. I don't have kids yet, but when I do I certainly don't want them thinking Tubgirl is normal. I don't think I would mind having a computer in their bedroom to write papers with, upgrade, etc..., but it certainly won't have access to the net.

As for laptops, I don't think kids ever need them. When they are young, they probably won't take very good care of it. When they get older and go off to college, a desktop is much safer. A laptop is just begging to get stolen. When I was in college I knew too many people who had text books stolen because they left their rooms unlocked while they went down the hall for 2 minutes. A laptop is just as easy to slip into a backpack as a text book.

not too soon (4, Insightful)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278131)

a laptop is one tool for education and can be used as part of a kid's schooling, but buying one just for the sake of buying one and giving it to a kid and expecting them to become smart is just silly.

what question should be asked is "when is a good time to start using a laptop in the context of my kids wider education" and I think that comes way after being able to write and read and do math and critically think what they read and not before

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278133)

Training children to become iBook-equipped hipsters.

Buy it as early as possible (1)

DARKFORCE123 (525408) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278134)

I say buy the laptop as early as possible for the kid. Make him into a man as soon as possible.

With an Internet connection, it is like browsing one big picture book :)

Re:Buy it as early as possible (1)

bhirsch (785803) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278210)

Then he can sit around with it in Starbucks, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc sipping some god-awful concoction with soy milk and be even more of a man!

Re:Buy it as early as possible (1)

Jackdaw Rookery (696327) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278265)

I don't think so. There are a lot of images in the picture book that I wouldn't want my daughter to see.

Using your analogy, it would have to be a monitored picture book, heavily edited and approved by parents and appropriate software in the background.

Oh please (3, Insightful)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278135)

What ever happened to pen and paper? God forbid we actually make kids LEARN the English language, let's just hook them up to spellcheckers ASAP and stop worrying about it.

I don't think ANY child should be given free acess to a spellchecker until he or she can read and write at a college level. It's meant to allievate your work, not do it for you.

Re:Oh please (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278180)

Your post, its content, your signature... I'm overloading here.

Re:Oh please (1)

Knome_fan (898727) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278191)

Judging from your post and you sig I get the impression you really, really dislike spellcheckers for some reason.

Btw., you can do more with computers than just write text, really.

Re:Oh please (1)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278195)

What are you talking about? Look at all the posts, NOONE spellchecks, EVAR.

Re:Oh please (1)

aetherspoon (72997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278213)

Not like it makes a difference. Most adults that grew up without spellcheck can't spell, what makes you think access to spellcheckers makes it better?

Then again, I was one of those backwards kids that grew up with a computer in the home my entire life. That means I can't spell, right? Wait, I haven't touched a spellchecker in years....

Oh come on (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278249)

Yeah, your anecdotal evidence sure destroys my generalization.

Here's some more "evidence". Every god damn kid I see hands in flawless, 0* error papers when they have access to them, and FILLED with errors if not. Magic?

*or close, scs aren't perfect

You are full of shit. (1)

latencylatencylatenc (902299) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278250)

You don't need pen and paper to learn how to write well. I learned to write well with my computer. I learned alot more about writing when doing it on my computer.

Re:Oh please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278255)

that's alleviate not allievate

Re:Oh please (2, Funny)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278280)

: I don't think ANY child should be given free
: acess to a spellchecker until he or she can read
: and write at a college level. It's meant to
: allievate your work, not do it for you.

Ahem [reference.com] .

Let him buy his own. (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278137)

There's this thing that you do labour and the people who appreciate the labour give you a universally accepted promisary note, which you can exchange for a computer, assuming that you collect enough of them.

I think that it's called a job

Re:Let him buy his own. (1)

aetherspoon (72997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278243)

Mowing lawns doesn't make enough to buy a laptop you know.

TFA was talking about kids in middle school.
Last I checked, it was illegal for kids that age in most areas of the US and Western Europe at least to work a job beyond mowing lawns.

Re:Let him buy his own. (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278291)

And who said a middle schooler should have a laptop.. Yea if the kid saves his allowance and money from chores maybe he can buy it himself. But till he's old enough for a job the chances of him taking good care of a laptop are low.

Obsolete too quickly (1)

SeanDuggan (732224) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278138)

Go ahead and just get a desktop computer. It's cheaper and your kid can learn how computers work by upgrading it.

Besides which, why does everyone keep insisting that laptops are ubiquitous in classes? Most engineering students I knew found paper and pencil to be faster and more flexible for jotting down notes.

no (1)

uberjoe (726765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278142)

I don't have a laptop yet, my kid is damn sure not getting one.

Yes (1)

hypnoticstoat (890677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278147)

My brother did this for his 10 year old son and found that not only was it a good way to make sure he was doing his homework as he was in the same room as my brother and so could be supervised, instead of being away out of sight in his own room twiddling his thumbs and pretending to work, but it was also good for limiting his access to the internet if need be. Simply by removing his wireless card to prevent access to the houses router.

My kid is heir to my Powerbook 12". (1)

Nijika (525558) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278148)

Yeah, by the time they want one, they can have this one that I'm typing on now. But in reality for the kid's sake, until they're old enough to run fast, we'll have a desktop machine for them. Before any of that though I'm going to let them play with the clamshell iBook.

Re:My kid is heir to my Powerbook 12". (3, Funny)

Knome_fan (898727) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278231)

Could you adopt me?

*CRASH* *CRUNCH* *[oblivion]* (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278150)

Sounds like an expensive thing to keep replacing over and over and over again, every time your kid damages it beyond repair or loses it.

Ah, but you HAVE to, because it's vital to their education.

When to get my daughter a laptop (1)

nemaispuke (624303) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278151)

When she get's off the phone long enough to use a computer at all!

Welcome to hypeland (2, Interesting)

pardasaniman (585320) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278153)

I went to a pretty posche high-school. (Not yuppy, just slightly below) And many students had laptops. I only found it usefull for making OpenOffice Impress from linux. (Windows boxes had different fonts as default) Laptops are a luxury really. I only got one in grade 12 for university. Laptops these days (In my price range) are so bulky that they aren't even portable. They are just portable enough to move from home to university and back for weekends. The portable laptops that have any performance worth buying end up being too pricey for me. The end result is you end up with a movable desktop. Until I got my laptop, I'd have vnc on my linux desktop, which I'd access from school computers. This was usually more than enough.

Used Laptops (4, Informative)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278154)

My first thought was, "When their rich uncle gets out of the poor farm." But I've actually been considering a used laptop from RetroBox [retrobox.com] -- they dispose of corporate assets and have laptops starting under $50 -- though you'll have to get over $100 before you can get anything over 300 MHz and 128 MB.

Of course, all you bargain hunters will now swoop in and grab them... where's that "back" button?

Desktop Too (1)

Tiberius_Fel (770739) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278158)

Sometimes the solution is not to buy them a laptop, but to buy them their own desktop. I had that from about Grade 8 on... It made more sense, since at the time I had no real need for mobility. (I liked to play PC games and surf the web mostly.)

The time might be right if your child is monopolizing the family computer... or if they are technically inclined and mature enough not to destroy it.

Gave them hand-me-downs (1)

JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278159)

I gave them the P2-450 when I bought my wife a P4-3g. My kids were 6 and 3 at the time. This year, they'll be getting the net access enabled. They're 8 and 5 now.
Laptop? Nah... Too fragile for this age. When they're in middle school? Maybe.

Laptop specific? (1)

th1ckasabr1ck (752151) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278161)

I'm not sure why this discussion is laptop specific - It seems as if the real question is asking when we should buy our kids computers. The excuse mentioned in the article (not practical to share a desktop with the family) is not relevant in 90% of cases.

My parents bought me a computer when I asked for one so that I could learn how to program. Worked out well in the long run.

If laptops only were not so fragile (2, Insightful)

Device666 (901563) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278163)

Ok buy your kid an expensive laptop. Vendors sure would like you to. Why? 1) They would sell more laptops 2) They would even sell more laptops after your kid has just spoiled some drink over it... Why would you not buy a laptop for a kid? 1) You could learn them first using an old desktop and teach them how to deal with a delicate machine 2) Teach them good practices first: open source development.

Um.... (1)

jdreed1024 (443938) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278168)

from the diapers-would-make-the-thing-hard-to-use dept

Uh, I don't know what kind of stuff you're doing with your laptop...

ASAP! (5, Funny)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278171)

Buy your kid a laptop as soon as possible so they'll get out of the house and download all of their illegal music, movies, and software off of someone else's access point (not to mention all of l33t spl01ts they'll be using).

In the future youth street gangs will stand on the street corners with laptops leeching unprotected wi-fi.

Hmm.. (4, Interesting)

epiphani (254981) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278172)

My sister is 12. She can type nearly as fast as I can - and while she does make use of that internet shorthand that I hate so much, I think a laptop would probably be a good thing for her to have. What kind of laptop is a little harder to call. I would probably suggest something limited enough that it would almost work out as an appliance though. Perhaps a linux system designed specifically for school type applications.

A really good idea would be for school boards to develope a little knoppix type system that could be provided to kids as nessecary - on a DVD-RW perhaps, to allow for saving their projects.

I'm only six years out of school, but I swear, kids these days are amazing. At 12, most can type quite quickly. When I was in school, at 15 I was one of three students that could type with any speed.

As soon as possible? (2, Insightful)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278174)

Laptops seem to be more useful than desktops... a little more fragile in exchange for better portability, adequate performance (I'm assuming you're not buying him/her a computer to allow him/her to play the latest l33t games) and much more flexibility.

But you know your child. How does he/she treat other pieces of expensive equipment in the home? If your kid treats your $xxx stereo system with respect, it's probably appropriate to give him a laptop. Just make sure to either get an iBook, or put some really solid anti-virus / anti-spyware software on the thing.

Old Fashioned (5, Insightful)

shane2uunet (705294) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278175)


My children will not have their own laptop until they get to about 10th grade.

Why? They need the basics, read, writing, and math. Having a computer just makes them more dependant on the spell checker, the calculator, etc.

Maybe it's just an unspoken myth, but computers don't make you smarter. Having access to loads of information doesn't make you smarter.

Good study habits, excellent reading skills, solid math and logic will get them to where ever they want to go.

Disclaimer. I use a computer all day as a system admininistrator/programmer. I enjoy using computers, but they don't make me smarter.

It's never too early (1)

scudderfish (198700) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278179)

I bought my daughter a 12" Powerbook when she was 2 weeks old. Admittedly she's never used it, and it rarely leaves my side, but it is technically hers and not a geek toy for me :)

Better get them a "ToughBook" (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278183)

I don't let the kids get anywhere near my Powerbook. They're in their mid-teens and still accident-prone. They get to use the main computer in the kitchen, and even then only under supervision. They don't need to be on a computer 24/7.

Also, it's rediculous to say that kids "need" a laptop because they'll be carrying one around in college. Do they need their Rhet & Comp books too so they'll be prepared? I went back to school and just graduated back in 2003. I was a non-traditional student, and I was one of very few that even had a laptop computer with me. There may be more people using them in the future, but for now, some exposure to a computer is good enough.

Depends on the kid... (1)

ChrisF79 (829953) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278185)

If you have a kid that's reasonably responsible and doesn't have a track record of breaking things (his PS2/Xbox still works), I don't see the problem. If you're worried about the laptop getting stolen or broken, you can purchase a rider very affordably through your homeowner's insurance. Like someone before me mentioned, with the falling price of laptops, it makes sense if you can trust the kid. It would especially be nice on road trips where the kid can do school work, watch dvd's, or play some games to pass time in the car.

You mean it's optional? (1)

howardcohen (244367) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278186)

I got my 2 kids their own computers when they each turned four; old enough to sit still and operate a mouse.

Careful selection of programs and websites means they are entertained while learning, and a side benefit is that "television" is not a part of their worlds.

When they are mature enough to care for it (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278192)

They can use a desktop until then. I would not set a grade requirement on when to buy them a laptop but a "responsibility" requirement. For the most part a desktop will suffice.

If your student loses their cell phones, can't drive a car within the confines of the law, or cannot maintain good study habits then save your money. If they have the aspirations and act on them within their capabilities then by all means get them a laptop if it truly benefits them at the time.

my model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278196)

* I get a new laptop
* oldest child gets my old laptop
* youger children get laptops from older children
* oldest laptop from yougest child gets back to my museum

Depends on the kid (2, Interesting)

Epistax (544591) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278197)

I don't have a kid. I'm basically still a kid of some sort (wait until I graduate college), but I think middle school is a little too early. I'd say keep a family computer around until high school, and keep it up to date enough that the kid won't be whining for something more powerful (it doesn't cost that much to keep a machine up to date). That was getting a lappy for your boy or girl is going to be less "a more powerful toy" and more a symbol of independence. Of course they won't be paying for it so it's not THAT independent.

Now if you're such a paranoid parent that you still want parental control of the Internet at high school age, it's easy enough to share the internet connection out of the family computer via wire or wireless, filtering pages through a firewall at the family computer (not perfect but helps). However, absolutely do not touch the kid's computer. If you did, there wouldn't be a point in getting it.

Younger and younger kids want pcs now (1)

Ohmster (843198) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278199)

My three and a half year old newphew has already declared his number one wish for his fourth birthday, a laptop...and not a toy one either...he already has a couple of those. The world indeed is changing.

I'm all for the technology (1)

castlec (546341) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278201)

But for almost all cases, laptops are a waste of money. I wouldn't buy my kid a laptop and if he or she decided they had the money for one, I would severely discourage them from buying one. Having a computer at the desk is more than sufficient and at least three times less expensive. You need to find reasons to not get a computer. The real reasons for a laptop are few and far between.

Do they really need a laptop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278202)

You don't have to buy a laptop to introduce your child to "new technology". Just create an account on the family's desktop computer. It's easier to monitor appropriate content when the child is sitting in the living room.

Comfort Levels (1)

white1827 (848173) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278204)

The more comfortable your child becomes with computers will likely correspond to how successful they are in adulthood. You can see that today. I'm in my mid twenties, so my generation was raised with computers and the internet. The individuals who are adept at using it (meaning they know how and where to find and analyze data) are much more successful and in demand than people who only have rudimentary knowledge of using a computer (meaning can turn it on but require extensive training on all applications thrown at them).

Answer: In Cobb County, they won't have to! (4, Informative)

955301 (209856) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278206)

Yes, that's right folks. Because I'm buying their kids a laptop. Me and my closest friends, geographically speaking. Our taxes are buying a bunch of kids that I don't have equipment that will be obsolete real soon which most of them will never know how to truly use. Except as email and chat hardware of course.

http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/7416 [oreillynet.com]

So don't worry about it! Move to Georgia, specifically Cobb County. Sure, we'll force your kids to listen to Creationism being equated to Natural Selection, but they'll be hearing it from an mp3 on their very own iBooks!

How 'bout 3? (1)

Wiseazz (267052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278215)

I have a 3-year-old (almost 4) that has her own laptop. It's an older one, but perfect for her games. It's nice because it's portable, built like a tank (like I said: "older"), and takes up very little room. She can also manipulate the touchpad much easier than a traditional mouse.

I have XP installed - she can boot the machine, click on her name to log in, then inserts the cd for the game she wants to play. I very rarely have to help her anymore.

Big market for military-grade laptops! (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278220)

With rubberized corners for cushoning the fall, springs that hold the MB and HD in place to prevent shock-damage, water-proof keyboard and display, lexan on the display to take shocks, and, of course, a Lojack for when it gets lost.

This thing'll be as expensive as a car.

What do middle school kids need laptops for? (1)

phpm0nkey (768038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278222)

College is quite different. Dorm room space is at a premium, and there's an expectation that you will be toting your laptop on campus.

Middle-schoolers carrying laptops around would be a nightmare. If a kid's laptop isn't broken when hurled to the ground underneath a bag of books, it will be stolen, or accidentally left behind somewhere.

Or... (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278227)

"I think middle school is the first time to think about it," she said. "Definitely by high school, I think a laptop makes all the sense in the world [because sharing one desktop] with a family is not at all possible. They're using it for all their papers, they're using it for everything else."

I think it would be a better idea to purchase them a regular PC when they're in middle school or high school. First of all, most children are still not all that responsible at that age. Granted that some of you might have been, but I think that the vast majority of children wouldn't be. Allowing something that they can haul to school where it could be stolen, broken, lost, or something else is not a good idea. Other children will want to use it and it will propably cause all kinds of other problems.

Although laptops are becoming more affordable, desktop PCs are dirt cheap. I just got a Dell catalogue in the mail less than a week ago. There were some computers listed for under $400 with monitor included. This computer will be in the safety of the home and will allow you to keep better tabs on what your child is doing with their computer. I don't want to sound like the secret police, but middle school children are still stupid enough to give their address to a child predator.

They can get a laptop when they go to college and might lug it to every class to take notes with and the small space it takes up with be a plus in a tiny dorm room. Until then, I think it would be better to hold off on purchasing them a laptop. Get a cheap PC instead, or better yet give them your old one and buy a new one for yourself.

Mine started at 18 months (2, Interesting)

nysus (162232) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278232)

He's got a used $100 Dell lap top. He started by watching a monster truck streaming video over and over. He learned how to stop and start the video by clicking on the mouse.

He's now 2 1/2. With some effort, he can pretty much move the mouse to where he wants to go and has the idea of clicking down, though he often wants me to do it for him becuase it's easier. There's all sorts of great educational flash animations out there for him. After about 10 to 15 minutes, he gets bored and then moves onto some other activity. He plays with the computer only a couple of times a week, nothing heavy duty. Every once in a while I bring him up to my computer and let him watch me work on the computer, telling him in very basic terms what I'm doing.

Anyway, the kid's going to grow up thinking of the computer as an extension of himself. There's no question they're going to play ever increasing roles in our lives. His generation is bound to be a very different kind of generation.

Not a cheap gift (1)

rrosales (847375) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278235)

Children don't have a need for a laptop as they should be enjoying the young years of their life. Staying inside to play FPS/RPG/etc games on a computer for 2+ hours is not healthy and can probably lead to unsocial habits. The family computer is just fine until they get into high school and they need a dedicated computer for school work and other activities. Plus laptops are portable and expensive pieces of equipment and can be prone to damage by moving it from location to location and can be costly to fix.

A Sub $100 Laptop is a good starter (1)

woodsrunner (746751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278237)

I got my kid a 300mhz laptop from a used computer store for forty bucks because they couldn't figure out how to load an OS on it.

The most important lessons a kid needs to learn about laptops is how to take care of it so it doesn't get smashed. This is why it seems pointless to invest in a new one -- I'd rather be out forty bucks than a grand or more. I had to take the machine away from her when she'd leave it sitting on a chair or the floor, but she quickly learned to take good care of it.

The thing works great and she writes all of her papers on it using Open Office. I have it running Win98 because there is a lot of good educational software I have her work with (she uses linux on her desktop -- her choice)

I don't give her network access on her laptop since I want her to be doing school work, not chatting or playing games -- that's what her desktop is for.

Damages (1)

hypnoticstoat (890677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278245)

I suppose someone should point out that its cheap enough to replace a keyboard on a desktop machine when the kid pours his sugar carbonated drink of choice into it, not so cheap to do that to a laptop, and it will happen, no matter how many times you warn them against it. Also it might be a good idea to buy something along the lines of a ToughBook because kids arn't exactly gentle with their stuff and laptop harddrives dont take to kindly to knocks and bruises.

As for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278246)

I can't remember when I got my first laptop. It might have been a handbook. 99% sure it was during the early 90s, and not the 80s. I'm 22 now. Not sure if I had one in elementary school, can't remember.

Why do they need laptops?? (2, Insightful)

jzarling (600712) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278251)

I recall seeing an article on /. a while back that covered how computers in the classroom are ruining education.

We should teach kids using the pen and paper method. First teach how its done before we give them a tool to do it for them. I personally won't buy my child a laptop (recertified or new) until they are responsible enough to care for it.

They're never too young.... (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278264)

for laptops.

or steroids.

You want them to get into the best grade school with the best athletic programs so that they can get into the right Jr. High/Middle School and then a good High School, where they can be recruitued by a big football college. THen the NFL and profit!

Oh, and the laptop? SO they can play football simulations and practice calling plays, of course.

Nothing like claiming a luxury is a necessity (0, Troll)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278266)

A notebook computer is a luxury; so is a computer for that matter. At a university, students are there because they want to be there; in middle school (and even high school), students are there because they are leagally required to be there. More important, teachers cannot assign homework that requires a computer more powerful than the school's computer labs, simply because it would put those students of a less wealthy background at a significant disadvantage.

The argument falls flat; computers are rarely shown to provide a better educational experience than books and paper; the only exception is computer programming... and those lower-education facilities that teach programming have the computers in the classroom.

Giving a notebook to a mid-school student is little more than a status symbol, a way for an affluent child of privilige to justify his arrogance and stroke his ego. It's also a good reason for a bully to assault (and possibly kill) someone to get the computer... or has it been so quickly forgotten that kids have been killed over athletic shoes and iPods already? I certainly know that would have been the case in my mid/high schools.

My 4 year old has a laptop (1)

meme_vector (679135) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278267)

My four year old has a laptop. It's perfect for him since it can be set up anywhere we happen to be. We can keep an eye on him and he still gets to play his learning games. We also use it on long trips in the car as a DVD player. Of course he's been asking for a printer now for about three months...

Unquestioned? (1)

matth1jd (823437) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278270)

"These days, it's almost unquestioned that college-bound students will tote laptops back to school."

I hardly find it unquestionable that a new college student would bring a laptop with them to college. While it's almost a certainty that a new student will bring a computer (although some still do not), there is still a mix of desktops and laptops out there.

The price of a desktop is still less than a notebook and buying a desktop usually yields a computer with more computing power, for many that equates to a computer that will last longer. If I were a fiscal parent I would be tempted to purchase the desktop computer, which yields more bang for the buck, is less likely to be stolen, and less easily damaged.

During my last semester in college (a year and a half ago) I saw almost no students bring a laptop with them to class. Professors regularly offer their lecture slides for download to supplement, but often replace note taking. This practice makes bringing a laptop to class, and sometimes pencil, pen and paper pointless.

I'm not saying that I don't see laptops becoming the de facto standard for a new college student, it's just not a foregone conclusion yet.

As an aside... (1)

ChrisF79 (829953) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278271)

FTA: "For parents of high school and middle school kids, the decision to invest in a laptop is far from given."

Invest really isn't the correct term since the item is going to depreciate so quickly. It really is a consumption. Just my $0.02...

Laptops in College (1)

Moxt (656316) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278272)

Even in the graduate courses I'm taking, not many students bring laptops to class. Out of two classes with 40 students each, 2 people bring laptops to class. It was the same in my undergraduate courses, which I finished this may.

Most notes are still taken easier with pen and paper. It's tough to draw those diagrams in MS Paint with a touchpad.

Kids, and most adults, have no need for laptops. It's rare that someone needs to do actual word processing in class.

How about a 3yr old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278275)

My 3 yr old son already knows how to open the laptop lid, hit (yes in a literal sense:) the start button, wait for the boot to complete and then take the mouse over to various things on desktop and randomly hit the Enter key! He keeps on questioning what will happen if he hits enter when the mouse is over each place!!

Is there a laptop which can stand by a little kid's (ab)use? If the kid has enough interest, will it be beneficial to give him a laptop at this age?

Some high schools require them (1)

peterkorn (712751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278276)

http://orionacademy.org/ [orionacademy.org] is an interesting and innovative high school focusing on kids with Aspergers Syndrome and NLD. They require all students to have Apple iBooks. Kids with these issues commonly have trouble with the motor skills to write legibly, and also commonly have difficulty with the mental multitasking needed to both pay attention in class and take notes of what is being said. All assignments (except in math class) are done on the computer. The iBooks connect wirelessly to the school server, which in turn has all of the notes from the electronic whiteboards used by the teachers in class.

It also makes the backpacks lighter, as only the laptop is taken from/to school every day.

Um... never? (1)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278277)

Wait wait wait... who says you HAVE to buy your kid a laptop?

What a waste of money.

WTF does your kid need a laptop for other than to drop it and/or break it in some manner? ...please people, let's use our heads from here on out and stop asking retarded questions that we already know the answers to.

To answer the question: When they're older and actually have use for such an expensive machine. Till then, build em a decent desktop for a fraction of the cost.

Never understood the laptop craze (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278285)

I've been using computers since I was 3. I have a degree in CS. But I never got how taking notes on a laptop was better or easier than pen and paper notes. I feel so disconnected and constrained when I try to take notes on a laptop. With pen and paper, I can write whatever I want (subject to my artistic abilities, which I don't really have), wherever on the page I want. And writing "imprints" what I'm doing in my brain far better than typing.

So I guess my answer would be "I wouldn't just buy my kid a laptop." Make sure s/he's computer literate? Sure. Encourage him/her to explore potential talents in computers? Of course. Buy him/her a laptop just because s/he's a certain age? Nope.

When is opinion (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278286)

I want to make sure I can monitor my kid's activities, so unless their highschool requires it (some elite schools do) then they will not get it until their senior year. I was thinking after graduation - so they have a few months to get familiar with it before college, but I would rather they get more time to become familiar with the laptop. So probably mid-way to HS, and urge them to utilize it to get ready for interviews. Definitly not before then, as the kids could be sitting anywhere on the net without my supervision - and there are too many psychos out there.

WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13278290)

My kids couldn't keep a calculator for six months without breaking it. They can't keep a CD for six months before it's unuseably scratched.

I'm going to buy them a $700 piece of fragile electronics to break in six months? Not very damned likely! If they have homework on the computer they can use the PC at home.

You fucking rich people who think everybody else is rich too piss me off.

Buy? (1)

dgos78 (881140) | more than 9 years ago | (#13278292)

Ha! I loaded up Damn Small Linux on my old Toshiba laptop and let my 12 year old daughter use it. All she does right now is browse and use AIM. She could destroy Windows boxes within minutes from her browing habits. It's a great way to put the old laptop to good use again.
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