My daughter turned seven, and her current goal in life is to be a YouTuber. She loves her coding lessons and is trying to join the coding club at school so that she can learn to use animation and editing software.
Her dad and I think that’s great, we’re doing all we can to encourage this interest. We don’t know what future skills will be called for when she hits the job market, but we can be pretty sure that tech skills will be part of it.
Last month she told me “I want to learn to code when I get older.”
My response? Why wait? Learning to code is going to take time, and if she really wants to do it, she should start now. I bought a “How to Code” kid’s book, and on the book’s recommendation, I signed her up for a Scratch account so that she could take their free coding lessons.
The problem? Little Bit needs a computer to use the website, and she doesn’t have regular access to one. She has a Kindle that she uses to play games and watch videos. She uses our phones to take pictures or search the web. We rarely let her on our computers, though. Jon’s old iMac has trouble with a lot of websites, and she has trouble getting me off of mine.
Little Bit needs more access to a computer to do much with coding lessons, much less video editing and animation. Jon and I knew eventually we’d have to buy her one of her very own. Eventually seems to have arrived.
I’m buying a computer for my kid, and I’d like to get your advice. Should I buy a family computer or a computer of her very own? Should I buy a Chromebook or a PC? Finally, should I make Little Bit chip in, and if so, by how much?
Let’s cover the options, and then I’ll let you weigh in.
A Family Computer versus A Kid’s Own
Let me say straight out that if we had more than one kid, this would be a far different discussion, as it would be if Little Bit had advanced to school work that required a computer. It makes sense for kids in larger families to share, at least until the school workload becomes large enough to warrant otherwise.
As a family of 3, though, I’m wondering whether we should buy a family computer or one that is designated specifically as Little Bit’s. Yeah, I’m buying a computer for my kid, but do I really want one that is just for my kid?
Reasons For Little Bit to Have Her Own Computer
- Access. If we buy Little Bit her own computer, she won’t ever have to worry about having priority. That’s the main purpose of the purchase regardless. And we know that while right now the purpose would be mainly encouraging her interest in tech, eventually she’ll need to write papers and do other school work on the computer.
- Her computer, her responsibility. When we’ve given her tech of her very own, she’s taken better care of it because she knows she’ll have to replace it herself.
- Control. If it’s Little Bit’s computer, I can set up a lot more restrictions than Jon or I might want.
- Streamlined needs. A computer for Little Bit has one set of fairly simple needs, at least for now. She needs to be able to connect to the internet to use Scratch and other websites. Eventually, she’ll need to do schoolwork on it. She also wants to edit video and photos and to play Minecraft. Adding more intended users might add more features and therefore more expenses.
Reasons For A New Family Computer
- Replace my laptop. My laptop’s not in the best of conditions, and while I don’t use it at home, it would be nice to have a usable machine when we travel to write articles, etc.
- Replace Jon’s ancient Mac. Jon inherited his computer several years ago, and it’s probably a decade old. In computer terms, that’s passed geriatric and closing in on Methuselah. Increasingly, he’s having trouble connecting to web sites, printers, phones, and anything else he’d like to use. A new machine would help him out.
- More actual supervision. I might be able to put more restrictions on a kid’s computer, but my kid might get around them too. If her dad and I sporadically use her machine, we’re more likely to see if she’s doing things on it that we may not have approved.
Should She Pay or We Pay?
When I first started considering a computer, it was a no brainer that this would be a great opportunity for Little Bit to stretch her savings muscles. On the other hand, the most she has ever accumulated is $100. The full cost of even a Chromebook would mean almost a year of saving for her.
She also wants “good” headphones, a microphone and a webcam to make her videos, as well as editing software. She can start practicing for her YouTube dreams with the default setup and free programs, though.
Earlier this summer, I made a deal with her. She pays half, we pay half. Right now, she has $65 saved, plus a $25 Walmart gift card I can buy off her and use for OTC meds and cleaning supplies. She’s also getting half the value of any Swagbucks for surveys that require a kid’s participation. That adds $6-7 so far.
Then Jon started talking about how nice it would be to have a laptop when we travel. And we started looking at some of the back to school sales and wondering if we might be better off purchasing now instead of waiting for her to save up her funds.
So now I’m torn…if it’s a family computer, should we still make her pay half? Should she pay a third? Should we just buy it instead? Or should we tell her the computer is hers but that she “has to share it” on occasion?
What if we get a good deal on one of our choices? Do we buy and hold it til she comes up with the rest of the money? Or do we wait to buy it, because that’s what you should do when you can’t afford the big ticket items right now?
A Chromebook Vs A PC
RAnn of Racing Towards Retirement had a great roundup of the pros and cons of buying an Apple vs a PC vs a Chromebook last week, and it was good for thinking about our choice. I still haven’t completely settled, though.
I’ll kick this off by saying I’m not paying for an Apple. Apple makes great products, especially for graphics-related programs. If Little Bit continues with animation or video editing to the expert level, I might have to rethink my PC-biases. For now, though, I don’t see a need to pay the Apple premium.
That still leaves us with the choice between a Chromebook and an inexpensive PC.
Chromebooks tend to be streamlined net-surfing machines with a low price point but not a lot of internal memory. That’s fine for Scratch, web browsing, and thanks to Google Drive, word processing, and spreadsheets. It’s less good for photo and video editing, though, just because of the limited memory. You can address that with flash memory, but I’m not sure I can reasonably expect a seven-year-old to keep up with a nerd stick.
Heck, I barely keep up with a nerd stick. If I need one of the files on mine, it will generally take at least 10 minutes to find it, and that’s just in my desk drawer.
This is the one I’m looking at:
The Inexpensive PC
PCs run on Windows (or Linux) and are more versatile. They also cost more, have less battery life, run more sluggishly, and pick up viruses more easily. When your target user is a seven-year-old, that last consideration is major. Who knows what she might try to download and why?
That said, there’s no doubt that even most moderately-priced PCs would allow our daughter to use any software she’d care to use for now. Some day, she might discover intensive-use computer gaming, but we’re not there yet.
This is the one I’m looking at:
In both cases, I’m open to other ideas, though, so if you have a recommendation for a Chromebook or cheap PC I should consider, give a shout out in the comments.
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