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by Ellen Lee
Seven out of 10 children use a tablet, at least among families that own one, a Nielsen survey found earlier this year. Calling it a “playmate, teacher and babysitter,” the survey added that more than half of parents said they used their tablet to keep their children entertained while traveling.
So how do you protect your iPad and other gadgets from the hazards of slippery fingers, spilled milk and miscellaneous mischief?
Here are some tech accessories that may be worth the investment.
What is it? Keyboard protector
$24.99 to $34.99
If you’re worried about sticky fingers and spilled coffee on your keyboard, you may want to consider covering it with a thin layer of silicone or other plastic.
The iSkin ProTouch is among the highly rated keyboard protectors for Macs. But there are plenty of others for both Macs and PCs, some of them for less than $10 and in fun colors. None of them promise to keep your laptop safe from all liquid catastrophes, but they do offer a measure of protection from the occasional accident.
Pros: If your toddler wipes peanut butter all over the keys, you can remove the cover and wash it.
Cons: Some could affect your ability to type.
OtterBox Defender Series
What is it? Smartphone case
$49.95 to $59.95
OtterBox is known for building heavy duty cases meant to withstand the harshest environments, like snack time at the playground.
The Defender series, available for several smartphone models, promises three layers of protection. Made with a polycarbonate shell and durable silicone, the case helps protect the smartphone from getting beat up. It also shields the screen from scratches and dirt.
Pros: It can take a lot of hits, as shown in a number of YouTube videos.
Cons: Bulky and not waterproof.
LifeProof iPhone Case
What is it? iPhone case
There are dozens of protective iPhone cases available, but how many can protect the iPhone if a toddler drops it into the toilet?
LifeProof seals the smartphone in a slim case that can be submerged up to 6.6 feet under water. In one instance over the summer, a teenager lost his iPhone while boating in Florida. The Baltimore Sun reported that a few days later, a tourist found it floating in the water, still functioning, and was able to call the family and return it.
Pros: Claims to be waterproof, snow-proof, shock-proof and dirt-proof. Kids can even take it snorkeling!
Cons: Expensive. Some customers have also complained that the case makes the touch screen less responsive.
With a $499 starting price, the iPad is not something you want to hand over to your child, only to watch it fall to the floor and crack.
One good bet for families of young children is Speck’s iGuy. Shaped like a little person with arms and legs, it turns the iPad into the companion that children know it to be. They can hold its squishy arms or stand it up by itself while they watch a Dora the Explorer video. Made of lightweight foam, it protects the iPad from a tumble.
Pros: Cute and good for small hands.
Cons: Bulky and awkward if you want to flip the screen in a different direction.
Gumdrop Drop Tech Series
What is it? eReader case
$39.95 to $59.95
Some cases disguise the eReader so that it looks like a traditional book. The Gumdrop Drop Tech cases, however, are all about making it look and feel rugged. Reinforced rubber bumpers help absorb the shock if it hits the ground and a screen cover protects it from scratches and dirty fingers.
Available for both the Nook and the Kindle, as well as several tablets, the Gumdrop Drop Tech series also includes a higher-end military-grade case for some models, fit for the most rambunctious of children.
Pros: With such a rugged case, you can almost toss your eReader around like a hardcover book.
Cons: Bulky and expensive.
Ellen Lee writes about technology for Bay Area Parent.
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