If you’re a parent, one of the decisions you need to make is when to and what type of computer to get your child. These days with more middle and high schools moving to a bring-your-own-device system, you’re probably looking at purchasing your child multiple laptops over time.

Often the requirement to get a laptop comes at the start of high school. Since this is a major investment my first suggestion is do not buy a used laptop or expect an older laptop to work throughout their time in high school. My rule of thumb is purchase a computer with the expectation that the computer will need to be replaced in roughly five years. This should mean that you will purchase them their first computer at the start of high school and then between their senior year and start of college you will look for a computer that will last them throughout college.

So what type of computer or device do you want to purchase your child? My first suggestion is make sure that there is at least some room for upgrading. Whether this means purchasing more memory down the road or a larger hard drive to allow more storage capacity the option to upgrade the computer and extend the useful life is important. My suggestion is stay away from non-upgradable devices such as iPads or the Microsoft Surface, which are also limited in their functionality. As cheap and appealing is the Chromebook, also stay away. While Chromebooks may be cheap, without an Internet connection they’re useless; a Chromebook is basically a computer running the Chrome web browser. This also means you can’t install software such as Microsoft Office. My final suggestion would be to make sure that the computer has both wireless and hardwired network connections built in. While wireless connectivity allows mobility it can be limited at times and the option to ethernet the computer can be very useful (functionality that can be supplied by an external USB adapter if there’s no dedicated ethernet port).

Finally, where should you purchase the computer? Should it be from a store such as Best Buy or Microcenter? Should you purchase the computer online? First this will come down to cost but shop around and do your research. Many schools and colleges also have computer purchase programs where they provide suggested computers through a vendor they work with. This definitely can help narrow down your choices. If you can try out a computer or see a computer in person that is also very helpful since laptops come in all different sizes and you will want to make sure your child is comfortable with using the laptop through high school or college.

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