All the tech gadgets your child does and doesn't need for class
As secondary schools open their doors once again, parents face the task of equipping their children for the next phase of their education and their lives. As well as books, bags and biros, tech tools increasingly play a role.
1. The iPad or laptop
While some secondary schools have designated iPad plans, many don't. Yet students will likely need access to a computer for extra research or to prepare projects. A good basic laptop is Lenovo's Ideapad 110 (€379 from Argos). Apple MacBooks are far more expensive, starting at more than €1,000, although both Apple and Microsoft offer student discounts or around €100 off their MacBooks and Surface Laptops. While iPads make good computers, they come with a specific risk for students in that they're compatible for most of the social media work used obsessively by students. That means the potentional for significant distraction during study periods at home.
2. The phone
There's no avoiding it. Just like everyone else in the country, the phone will be the most used technology device your secondary school child will own. This doesn't mean that it has to be an iPhone. A fully functional smartphone such as Huawei's Y330 starts at around €50. A bit more gets you something like Sony's decent L1 (€139) phone, with a bigger screen, more memory and a better camera.
Apple iPhones start at about €350 for 'reconditioned' models and at around €500 for new models. While generally being top of the line in quality, an iPhone is only really advantageous to a child if a parent or a close friend also has one, as this enables Facetime calls or iMessage text messages to be sent over wifi. (Skype, Whatsapp or Facebook calls and texts can also be sent, but are not used as much within families.)
3. Battery backup
For students who have a long commute to and from school, this could be crucial. Costing as little as €15, these small, light gadgets extend the battery life of a phone by between 50pc and 100pc and fit neatly into a small pocket.
Some may consider this a bit of a luxury, but a good pair of headphones can be very useful for blocking out ambient noise and helping to focus when studying. Over ear models are generally considered less harmful to eardrums than in-ear versions. Decent pairs start at about €30. A good quality set, such as Sony's XB650BT, costs €79. Headphones are also of use if trying to focus on something during a bus or train trip.
THE TECH YOUR KIDS DON'T NEED
1. A smartwatch
Don't believe the hype: smartwatches aren't the next big thing. Mostly, they're used by adults for fitness and health. Besides, your kid could get into trouble if their smartwatch keeps pinging with notifications during a class.
2. An expensive smartphone
By all means, give your child an iPhone if you can afford to or if you're trading up and can offer them your old model.
But with the exception of Facetime calls, the iPhone gives no functionality advantage to kids compared to Android alternatives. It's purely a status issue. Your child will get the same basic opportunity from a €100 Android model.
3. A desktop PC
With the exception of gaming and some niche industries, desktop PCs are dying out. If you're planning on getting them a computer, you're better off investing in a laptop. If a larger screen is needed, you can get an external 20-inch monitor for as little as €100.
How can I make sure my kids don't cost me a fortune using their phone?
Some 99pc of phone usage with kids and teens is via their data, including Facetime calls or iMessage texts. As such, it's crucial that they have an adequate data allowance to avoid surcharges. 5GB might be just about sufficient, but 10GB or more is recommended. Many prepay plans from 3, Virgin, Tesco and Meteor offer this amount for €20 or less per month. Parents sometimes get caught out by this, thinking that "unlimited calls" is some sort of good deal. It's actually irrelevant to a child (and, increasingly, the rest of us) as kids almost never make traditional calls on a mobile.