It’s just a few weeks before Christmas and all through the land children diligently write ‘tablet’ onto their letter to Santa. The tablet computer is the must-have toy de jour and as seen on last night’s Late Late Toy Show even broadcaster RTÉ is getting in on the action with its own JuniorPad tablet computer aimed at 2-7 year-olds.
Kids are clever enough to tell the difference between a toy tablet and the real thing. They are growing up intuitively “connected” and using technology in this multi-screen world is now as natural as using pen and paper, to borrow a phrase from RTÉ Digital managing director Muirne Lafffan.
While parents often now have to wrest their own tablet computers back from the steely grip of tiny hands making a decision on a piece of technology for their kids that will benefit their education, won’t insult their intelligence and ultimately keep them entertained and safe are top of their list of concerns. The hope is Santa brings the right tablet computer down the chimney and all will be peaceful over the holidays.
With the RTÉjr JuniorPad, RTÉ has given families not only a potential solution to the tablet computer dilemma, but also a glimpse into the future of how it intends to engage with various demographics in society. More about that later.
RTÉjr JuniorPad Specs
The JuniorPad is a pretty simple and straightforward Android tablet that comes pre-loaded with five hours of RTÉjr content including Meet the Animals, Musical Families and Tell Me a Story from RTÉjr Radio, and Hubble, The Clue Crew, Storytime, Tell Me a Story, The Curious World of Professor Fun & Dr Dull from RTÉjr Television.
Working with German manufacturer EasyPix, RTÉ has developed a 7-inch device that also gives parents peace-of-mind about what their kids might be doing online – it comes with parental controls as well as a kids’ tailored desktop.
The JuniorPad is powered by a 1.4GHz dual core processor and has 1GB of RAM as well as 8GB of memory. It runs on Google’s Android 4.2 (Jesllybean) OS.
It comes with a 0.3MP front-facing camera, supports Flash, has a G-sensor for gaming and RTÉ has thoughtfully bundled in a protective pouch. Proving that this is for kids – adults must ask permission to use it – the device is painted a garish mustard/orange colour.
First and foremost this is a full strength Android tablet capable of doing most things other Android tablets running Jellybean are capable of doing – surfing the web, sending and receiving email, social networking, Skype, etc. Which means that if the kiddies do grant the oldies permission to do use the device it won’t be lacking in any way.
However, parents do have the power to ensure that the kids can stay on the Kids Desktop as a PIN code is required if the kids wish to leave that desktop.
The device comes with a number of other useful parental controls such as the ability to decide which apps or web pages they are allowed to use (ie to make visible), create profiles for family members and – very useful – manage the time that kids are allowed to use the device as in how many hours per day they can use it, how long they can use it before taking a rest, etc.
Parents can even create a book of audio, video and web content to curate content for their little darlings and keep them entertained
At just under €150, the device is affordable as a toy and at the same time can be used also as a proper tablet by the rest of the family.
As computers go it is powerful enough in its own right and cable of doing anything pricier Android tablets are capable of doing.
However, a few of the specs jar with the perfectly adequate Wi-Fi capabilities, speakers, battery life and processor. For example the camera is just 0.3MP – that’s circa 2003 early stage camera phone – and the screen is pretty low-resolution at just 800 x 480 pixels.
But remember, it’s a tablet aimed at 2-7 year-olds, get your own iPad Retina or Sony Xperia tablet if you want bigger and better.
Ultimately the device is value-for-money and as well as kids, it’s a tablet all the family can use to live their digital lives.
While the JuniorPad is limited edition I can see RTÉ potentially branching out in new digital directions with low-cost tablets pre-loaded with its own content. For example, if it so wishes – and if it made business sense of course, it could bring out a tablet for teens or senior citizens pre-loaded with links to the kind of content that suits people of these respective age groups as well as the RTÉ Player.
For a nation endeavouring to bridge the digital divide, RTÉ’s role as public broadcaster could get a whole lot more interesting.
The RTÉ JuniorPad is an inspired and surprise move by our State broadcaster and could certainly add to many a families Christmas cheer.
The RTÉjr Juniorpad is available on www.RTÉ.ie/shop and in all major retailers and costs €149.99.