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This year’s must-have tech gifts – and what you need to know

Sony PlayStation 5 controller in front of a screen

By Giles Milton

Forget what Mariah Carey says – all many children want for Christmas are the latest gadgets. 

But with so many products in the marketplace, what are the must-have gifts for 2020 – and what do you need to know about them? 

Here’s Parent Zone’s guide to the best tech gifts for keeping children happy and connected. 


Gaming

Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 (both RRP £449) are the two must-have consoles for gamers this Christmas. But which? It depends on a gamer’s preference – you’re either an Xbox or PlayStation fan. Both feature higher speeds, responsiveness and loading times – plus ultra HD graphics, as you might expect from next-generation consoles. 

Both were released in November and have become the most desirable of all this year’s new gadgets – so much so that stocks are regularly selling out and opportunists are using bots to buy up what remains.

What do you need to know? 

  • XBox X and PS5 games aren’t cheap – blockbuster titles can cost £70+

  • Don’t pay over the odds – resellers are doubling prices for desperate shoppers

  • Both consoles work better connected online, so check all new account settings – for purchases, privacy and in-game chat – to suit your child’s age

Are there any risks?

In-game purchases and loot boxes are increasingly used in many online games and children can quickly be parted with cash. In-game chat can also expose children to strangers, so make sure you are aware of the settings. Also be aware of PEGI ratings and what games are suitable for your child.   

Also on the wishlist

Mario Kart Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch (rrp £99) is set to be a family smash, allowing you to race in your own home and use augmented reality to turn your house into a deep ocean or desert race track.

Away from hardware, some gamers may prefer annual gift subscriptions for Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus (both RRP £50) or Nintendo Switch Online (RRP £18). While a gift card may not look the most exciting thing to unwrap on Christmas day, these give gamers access to a wide range of downloadable games and content. Make sure they have the right account set-up and settings to gaming online.


Connected devices

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 Kids tablet

For children looking to connect with their first device, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 8 Kids (RRP £140) offers a safer entry into owning a tablet. Using a version of an Android operating system, it does most things an iPad Mini might – but with added security settings for parents. These include the ability to limit screen time and set daily educational tasks, as well as managing the apps and platforms your child accesses. 

What do you need to know? 

  • Parents can control in-app spending through their own Amazon account

  • Allows different screen time limits for weekdays and weekends

  • Comes with a two-year guarantee and one-year subscription to Amazon Kids +

Are there any risks?

While you may set up the device securely, be aware of which apps your child is using and make sure that you understand that games such as Minecraft, Roblox and Among Us all have in-game chat functions. If you have set up parental permissions, make sure your personal details – such as a parental pin code – are kept private, so your child isn’t tempted to change any settings. 

Also on the wishlist

For children wanting a smartphone, there are cheaper alternatives to an iPhone. These include the POCO X3 NFC (RRP £199) and the Motorola G8 (RRP £179), which have both reviewed well for display, camera and battery life.  

Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo Dot 4 and Google Nest Mini (both RRP £49) are also hot-ticket items. These let children stream music in their bedrooms, source news and information, and generally torment the AI with the type of abstract questions usually reserved for you.

But be sure you have account settings right to ensure your child cannot make any purchases without your knowledge, or access inappropriate content. For younger children, the Toniebox starter set(RRP £70) may be more suitable.


Health and wellbeing

The Fitbit Ace 2 fitness tracker

Fitness trackers are all the rage for children – and can be a great tool for supporting health, exercise and wellbeing. The Fitbit Ace 2 (RRP £70) is designed for children and tracks daily steps and activity, as well as setting goals. Parents can also use it to monitor their child’s sleep and make sure they are getting enough hours. The device connects to iOS and Android apps and families can pair their devices to track their fitness and wellbeing.

What do you need to know?

  • Hard-wearing devices that adjust size as children grow

  • Children with smartphones can connect their Fitbit for notifications

  • Adult versions include the Fitbit Inspire 2 (RRP £90) and Charge 4 (RRP £130)

Are there any risks?

While fitness tech can be useful for monitoring health and wellbeing, balance is important, and it shouldn’t create any unrealistic or unfair expectations. Make sure your child isn’t feeling any anxiety about their activity levels and let them know their happiness is the most important thing.

Also on the wishlist

It was only a matter of time before electric toothbrushes went connected – and the Deeno-Saur (RRP £15) brush for 3+ uses an app to offer rewards for good brushing. 

The Animal Island Learning Adventure (RRP £150) is a connected learning tablet for 12 months+, with preschool curriculum activities around ABCs and 123s. It has updated curated content, no ads and no data storage.


Coding

The Raspberry Pi 400 plug-in-and-go PC

For budding coders, the Raspberry Pi 400 (RRP £90) is a PC built into a keyboard that lets users explore and learn coding and computing. The plug-in-and-go device lets you create your own games and animations, using Python and Scratch 3 languages, plus many other projects. 

What do you need to know?

  • Device requires a monitor, but can be plugged into a TV via HDMI

  • Functionality is more around learning than gaming

  • Children may require the full computing pack (including mouse) and beginners guide

Also on the wishlist

Robo Wunderkind Explorer Lite (RRP£199) is a coding toy for ages 5-14 that is compatible with Lego and lets you build your own automated robots and complete learning modules. The Osmo Coding starter kit (RRP £99) is another coding, learning and puzzles pack for young developers and is compatible with Kindle Fire tablets.


Read: a guide to parenting in a commercialised digital world


GADGETS

The Vecnos IQUI camera, with 360-degree filming

For young people interested in looking good on social media (ie, most of them), the Vecnos IQUI camera (RRP £299) lets you connect and share onto your favourite platforms in a click. It has 3840x1920 video at 30fps – which is very good – and can also capture 360-degree images with a ‘quad-lens optical system’.

What do you need to know? 

  • Toothbrush-sized and can also record MP4 video and live streams

  • Works with Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and other connectable apps

  • Suitable for children old enough for social accounts

Are there any risks?

Your child should be aware of what they are sharing – especially in the 360-degree option. It is always important to respect the privacy of other people in photos or videos, as well as remembering not to give away sensitive information – such as location. If live streaming, you should also be aware of the risks associated.

Also on the wishlist

The Rubik’s Connected (RRP £49) is a classic cube with a difference – connecting to an app that tracks your twists and turns, gives tips and can enter you into global challenges and leaderboards. The VTech Kiddizoom DX2 (RRP £40) is a smartwatch for children 4+ and has a camera, games, downloadable apps. It also and helps children to learn the time.

Main image: Girts/stock.adobe.com


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