The learning experience is fundamentally different for kids now than it was even for today's 20-somethings — especially for elementary and middle schools. A lot of that change can be attributed to laptops.
The Covid-induced school closures that spanned 2020 cemented the cruciality of a kid having easy access to a laptop at home. While the classroom may be all-important once more, it's still convenient to have a laptop at hand for your kids to use. The importance of access to email and virtual learning platforms like Blackboard, while a kid's not at school, can't be understated (and for a lot of kids, it's far less intimidating than talking to a teacher IRL).
Digital accessibility to school materials and other resources can also cultivate a sense of autonomy and responsibility in students: The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning found that high schoolers who were assigned a laptop were more likely to take notes in class, do internet research, collaborate with peers on projects, check their grades, and get reminders about due dates or tests.
Are first graders going to be taking notes or keeping track of their own test scores? Probably not. But as children move from elementary to middle to high school, computers are made a more integral part of the curriculum and assignments. Young kids can stay ahead of the curve by practicing those skills at home — it's like practicing reading with your preschooler or letting your 15-year-old practice driving in a parking lot. Easing them into the responsibility of keeping a device charged can work as preparation for a cell phone as well.
Laptops for younger kids versus older kids
Some criteria make sense for all ages. Young kids need something sturdy that can handle drops or bumps, and older kids need something that can handle being lugged in a backpack alongside heavy books. Long battery life makes everyone's life easier, too.
Processing power and storage will likely be your main deciding factors, and it all depends on what the kid will be doing on the laptop. Younger kids may do some light schoolwork, play games, or watch a movie, but there's no reason to pay for RAM over 4 GB to run a few apps for school or a fancy screen to play Unravel Two. Faster RAM and increased screen resolution will be important for high school or college students who need a device that can multitask with power-sucking apps like PhotoShop or software for a statistics course. Ample storage space is a must to house things like schoolwork and downloaded textbooks.
Here are the best laptops for kids in 2023: