The expert: Dory Devlin
As the mom of three — ages 10, 12 and 14 — she's always scouting technology that's right for kids and families.
A fun pocket tool that can help middle schoolers perfect their spelling and find just the right word for essays and reports.
Well priced for a kid who isn't quite mature enough to take care of a $200 - $300 camera, this has a bunch of features typically found on pricier models: 3 megapixels, a 4X zoom lens and a 1.5-inch LCD screen, plus TV outputs and a memory card slot.
No worries about MP3 players getting crushed by books — this smart backpack has a front pocket with an audio electronics organizer and a separate spot to stash a cell phone.
A desktop computer that packs all the power tweens and their parents need in a compact, affordable PC package. It's not great for gaming, but this will be used only for homework, photos and messaging, right?
Kajeet is a cool pay-as-you-go service (35 cents/day, 10-cents/minute for calls) designed specifically with tweens in mind. It has terrific web tools, including once called "wallet manager" that empowers kids to take responsibility for how much they spend on calls, text messages, games, wallpapers and ringtones.
Web Extra Pick: MIT's Scratch website (FREE!)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab has designed a site that allows kids ages eight and up to create interactive stories, games, animations, music, and art. Through a simple graphical interface that mimics building blocks, kids can build unique programs without knowing programming language.
Apple's nano has been redesigned, splashed with color and enhanced with more memory. For 'tweens who love music, there will be no substitute for the MP3 player of choice carried by the older kids they emulate.
Pricey, absolutely — but something the ultimate wired teen will beg for. It's the first mobile phone with a dual-slider action that allows for switching back and forth between calling and texting in mere seconds. Kids will also be able to Web surf, check e-mail and MySpace pages, and listen to music.
Sure, it prints, but this compact wonder also faxes, scans, copies and supports memory cards. If that weren't enough, there's a built-in digital answering machine that holds almost 30 minutes of messages. All that and it's wireless!
The superinexpensive (not to mention sleek) Mustek camcorder-digital-camera hybrid takes 5.2-megapixel pictures, has an MP3 player and supports SD memory cards of up to 2GB. In other words, it is loaded with features your kids will enjoy using year-round.
Sony's fashionable Micro Vault flash drives are light enough to hang from a key chain yet capable of holding up to 4GB of data. Truly the best portable flash drive around, perfect for bringing data back and forth between school and home.
Web Extra Pick: Juicy Couture Laptop Sleeve, $99
Laptops gone Couture! This ultra-girlie terry sleeve is nicely cushioned to give her notebook that extra protection inside her backpack. With plenty of pockets inside and out, the sleeve has enough room to hold homework and peripherals in one place.
The most convenient USB dictionary/thesaurus that holds thousands of definitions, synonyms and antonyms in one tiny memory stick. The built-in phonetic spell correction allows kids to enter a word the way it sounds and provides alternatives for misspellings. Too bad this feature isn't included in their texting devices. Can you say 2 QL 4 skool?
Expand their digital memory as they expand their mind with a colorful LaCie Brick Hard Drive. Gotta love the stackability factor of these Lego-like hard drives capable of storing up to 500GB of digital bytes. Truly, a fun way for teens to store countless photos, MP3s, videos, books and anything else they want to cherish for years to come.
The expert: Becky Worley
Becky stars in a video blog on Yahoo and regularly shows off tech products on Good Morning America.
A dorm-friendly solution to those giant computer and charger plug-ins that take up a whole wall socket or two openings on a power strip: With this ingenious five-plug multiplier, every opening stays accessible.
Clocky gives students one chance only to get up — if they hit snooze and drift back to sleep, this gizmo rolls off the table and "hides" in the room, continuing to make noise until someone literally drags herself out of bed to find it. A rude awakening, perhaps — but failing an 8:00 a.m. class is worse.
One of these and a $15-a-month subscription to Yahoo Music is the ticket to more than 2 million songs — without a computer acting as middleman. About 1,000 songs fit on 4GB of storage space and remain accessible even if there's no network signal available.
These headphones fit so well that they provide some noise-canceling effect, great when a rager roommate is partying like a rock star before midterms. The sound quality is also so good that volume can be kept on the low side, which is better for ears in the long run.
The ID is offered by t-mobile, whose plans include the ability to call 5 numbers (even landlines) for free any time, so you basically create your own in-calling network. The ID is great for instant messaging, texting, emailing and even has some organizational features for keeping track of class assignments and test dates. It has interchangeable bumpers that let you personalize the device with different colors and themes, but the under-$100 price point does strip out some features — notably, a built-in camera. That fact aside, it's a great cell for the starving student on a budget.
Unlike most digital cameras, the F30 is great for low light and night shots when kids are "studying late in the library" or perhaps...taking pictures at a party. It maximizes available light without creating harsh shadows from an overly bright flash. It's a fantastic all-around digital camera too, and small enough to fit in a jeans pocket, no matter how tight."
Put this Swiss Army knife in a pocket or on a key chain and you have all the necessary tools to tackle life: a file, scissors, a pen knife and a 1 gigabyte USB storage drive.
Copyright © 2007 Meredith Corporation. Originally published in the September 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.