Whether your child is just about to start school and/or needs a laptop for the the first time, or they've been doing it for ages, you may want to consider these few tips to implement before the school year starts...
Choosing a laptop
1) Most schools these days provide a list of approved models and/or specifications for the type and brand of laptop your child should have.
Read these carefully and then ask a knowledgeable person for advice...maybe show them the specifications too.
In my experience schools struggle to keep up with technology and how to ensure their students have the right thing.
So you'll probably want to ask some questions and adjust some elements of the configuration...and your child's expectations.
2) If your school doesn't provide any help, then contact me. I can provide you my buying guide for a small charge.
3) Consider the weight and durability of the laptop you choose.
We were all small kids once. We all know how a heavy schoolbag impacts on us and we all know how well we treat ...well...anything really.
The laptop is going to have to survive quite some punishment.
Setting up the laptop
4) Have your child sit with you while you go through the set up. You are going to need to ask them questions and I am not being rude here. Questions that will make them happy, avoid dramas and also be a bit of fun. Questions like the choice of user name, the password etc.
5) Have a pen and paper handy to record the decisions you make, the usernames, the passwords etc.
6) Don't wait until the last day before school to start setting up the new laptop, especially if this process is new to you.
Any new laptop, regardless of brand, is going to need to perform some automatic updates. This could take some time and get in the way of the machine being usable for a time.
The last thing anyone needs is for your kid to start the computer at school and have to wait for it to update before getting started.
Also, if something goes wrong you'll want some time to be able to reset the machine or get it fixed / replaced.
7) When setting up see if your kid's school provides any of the facilities they'll need such as:
loss and theft tracking
VPN (virtual private network)
software (word, powerpoint, photoshop etc.)
Some schools will have very specific software requirements and restrictions.
8) Set up i.e. add an extra Administrators account / login on the laptop.
This is your "Parents" login. Put a password on it. Don't tell your kids what that is.
Make sure you log into that user on the laptop as it will require setting up the first time and won't be much use to you if this hasn't been done.
This "Parents" account isn't there to restrict of control how your child uses the laptop.
I have seen many attempts to control the use of laptops using parental control software, limited user accounts and the like and it all ends up being too painful and/or undone by your tech-savvy munchkins.
So don't waste your time. You'll need to trust that you've taught them right from wrong. If they don't, then your attempts to block their actions will fail anyway.
They'll need to be administrators too so be aware, and discuss with them, why you need a password protected login too.
You need the login in case something goes wrong. Another user login on the machine can sometimes help overcome problems that your child will encounter sooner or later.
Of course, if your child does misbehave and/or not understand what is going on, they could remove your "Parents" login. Then you explain to them that if they do that and their homework goes missing it is their fault and their bad luck.
Securing the laptop
9) Make sure the passwords you create during the set up are good and strong.
Little Johnny and Jane's friends may think it a great game to try to login and wreak havoc.
Read the connected articles on passwords for tips and tricks on this.
10) Make sure the laptop has a good and paranoid antivirus product on it.
Your kids are going to test the limits of this software either by accident or by design.
11) Make sure you have tracking software on the laptop.
This software can help you get the machine back if lost or stolen.
It can also help you erase the data if it gets into the wrong hands and catch the thief.
12) Make sure the laptop has your contact details visible on it. Much like your kids undies, your are going to have to label everything because you can bet they'll leave it somewhere.
13) Consider extended warranty and/or insurance for the machine. Or check that it is covered under your household insurance policy. You know why. ;-)
Backing up the laptop
14) This is by far the most important thing to do.
I can't begin to tell you how many dramas and how much money gets thrown at laptops when a child's assignment disappears.
So install a backup system of some kind and instill in your child's mind how important this is.
Test it. Check it regularly. Don't assume it or your child is doing it properly.
Read the linked articles for more help.
15) You may want to acquire a spare/extra power adapter for the laptop.
Being a floating and separate item, there's a very good chance that your child's laptop and its source of power are going to part company at some stage.
This may sound like paranoia, but trust me, it happens ...a lot.
They may not eb cheap if you buy genuine and have more than one child, so you may want to hunt down a third party adapter that can provide the right voltage and current for multiple laptops.
You can't just use any old power adapter and if you get this wrong it is worse than not having power at all.
16) External keyboard, mouse and screen.
In circumstances where the laptop's built in facilities fail, it can often still be used with these things plugged into it.
You may already have these items in your house on another computer. But, just so you know, they can get you out of a screaming and crying match... I mean bind ;-)
The all that's left to do is...
...drop them at the gate and drive like the wind!!!
P.S. If you have anything to add please email me and I will update this post. Thanks.