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Ask Max: What is a good computer for my child?

Asked on 05/09/2007:

I am looking into buying an iBook for my 6th grade daughter. I am wondering what kind of iBook will be good for her at her age. Also I am wondering if I should start her on a pre-owned or a refurb model. Also I need to have MS word, Excel & PowerPoint software on it.


When my daughter started 6th grade I bought her a new G4 iBook 12". It was probably a little too nice for her but I had given her an older computer as a training laptop for a year. It survived, so I figured she had the experience to keep a new Mac in good condition. If this is the first computer you are giving your child, then I would recommend a pre-owned unit. The iBook series has been the best kid-resistant computer ever to come from Apple. Even with my daughter's successful laptop training, she has dropped her iBook. It did survive without any problems but it taught me a lesson. In the home, the regular location of any young child's computer should be in a public place. The mess factor is my first reason for not allowing a computer in a young child's room. Drinks magically spill, things are stacked on top of anything, and level surfaces are often scarce. Another problem with letting a child have a computer in their room has to do with online activities. The scary things that happen to our kids online are far less likely to happen if we can look over the child's shoulder and see what's going on. But the most important reason to keep this new computer out of your daughter's room is so you can see her. Even though my daughter wants to hide in her room at this age, I still want to see her whenever possible. She maybe glued to that iBook for as long as we let her stay online, but I have the ability to interact with her during those times because the computer is in a public place. The computer is on a special desk right next to the kitchen and when I cook, she can chat to her friends online and tell me what happened in her day at the same time.

OK, now to your actual question. I would have you look at an iBook G4 for your daughter. You could also go with a MacBook, which has many of the same features as an iBook and will support future software upgrades better than an iBook.

The refurbished iBook we have is also a great option.

Microsoft makes a student version of their Office application suite of software. You can install one copy on up to three computers.

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