A few months back the team at Binatone got in touch to ask if Flea and I would try out a new child’s tablet.
Now, I confess, I’m not a big believer in children using tablet computers.
I worked as a tech journalist for more than a decade and if I learned one thing (actually, it’s entirely possible I did only learn one thing) it’s this: technology never works exactly as vendors expect it to. So just because a vendor tells me an iPad or Nexus is perfectly safe in the hands of a three-year-old doesn’t mean I believe them.
Having said that, I was interested when Binatone got in touch to ask us to try out a KidzStar tablet, and let them know what we thought.
Crucially, the KidzStar has parental controls that mean parents can set limits on what children can do – and they can only play games and download apps from a separate KidzStar App store. Sounds reassuring, right? When you turn the device on, it’s in children’s mode and you have to enter a password to gain access to the parent’s screen – which is where you control settings, but also provides access to a fuller range of apps, including YouTube, a browser and Google search.
To test the tablet out, we gave it to Flea’s cousin, who is 10 years of age – at the upper end of the recommended age group, but also at the age where lots of her friends are being given adult devices, and so we were interested to see how a kids’ tablet would compare.
My niece was given the device to charge, and was incredibly excited to get started.
The next day, Flea and I were out when I received a text message from my sister-in-law. Having turned the tablet on, there was a password. I didn’t know what the default password might be, but said I’d look when I got home.
A few minutes later, I got this text:
Yep. It had taken barely an hour for my niece to work out how to bypass the parental control settings entirely and access the adult area of the tablet. She showed me later that day how she was able to move from the secure, child’s area of the software to the adult screen without needing to enter a password.
Within one of the children’s apps, my niece typed a word that was mis-spelled. The tablet prompted her to add this new word to the dictionary. Click ‘yes’ and the tablet whisked her off to the Dictionary – which is situated in the adult portion of the device – no password required. So now she had full access to the browser, and could happily access Google search and YouTube. Binatone says it’s looking into this technical glitch, so I’m not sure if this is possible on all devices, or just ours.
What worries me a bit is that this is just the kind of thing kids would do without even thinking they were doing anything sneaky – although kudos to my niece for sussing it out so quickly!
My niece uses the device in the adult mode anyway – she’s far too old for the included games, apps and songs, which mostly seemed to be geared to 4-6 year olds. She’s worked out how to add books and music, and she enjoys watching YouTube. The orange bumper is removable, giving the tablet quite a grown-up look, but actually my niece quite likes it!
So have I been won over to the idea of kids and tablets? If anything, I would say if you’re going to spend this kind of money, buy an adult tablet because you KNOW you should be supervising your children while they’re playing on it. I’m concerned by a child’s device where the safety setting is so easily bypassed.
The KidzStar tablet is on sale exclusively at Argos, currently priced at £129.99