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Setting up a tablet for a 3 year old

I feel like he deserves to have access to technology (and he's alone and inside a lot due to pandemics)

And - holy shit - technology for kids is a horrorscape wasteland
Irrelephant mastodon (AP)
I have been wondering about this (as a grandparent of a nearly-two.) I give nothing but clothes, books, and physical toys (wood blocks and - oddly - canvas bags to store toys in have been hits.)

The kid avoids triggering the higher-tech toys which make noises, but loves the blinking lights. Books, which give control of a consenting adult, are huge hits. And computers/tablets in video calls are popular too.

By far the favourite thing is a cell phone, the least-safe tech thing.
Yeah, that's kinda the things. Grownups around my kids all have cellphones and use them. Both my wife and I use a phone as an extension of our brain, so it probably feels weird to my kid to not have one.

We are pretty good with books (have dozens), and avoid toys which make noise, but aren't sticklers about it. So far our best toy has been a 5ft geodesic dome in the backyard and a sandbox.

But we also got a https://jooki.com/ for Christmas for our 2 year old, and that's definitely well liked, but has kinda turned into a bedtime toy. Now that he's turning three though we're talking about tablets. I feel like before he was very close to three he could play Balloon Pop and other really minimal games on a phone, but not really engage with them. And I think he was mostly ok with this. As he gets closer to three, video is more exciting to him, and that worries me, I hate passive entertainment like TV, but with a recent bout of bad weather he was inside bored a lot.

LeapFrog makes a fairly major tablet, but I really distrust their privacy model as explained.
Amazon makes one too - but no.
There's a few other ruggedized kids tablets, but I dislike them.
Soon-to-be-three year old has also just begun to figure out the Nintendo Switch, but isn't super understanding.
VTech's Innotab seems to be at least better (assuming you avoid KidConnect which I cannot find usefully laid out privacy info about), though I might DNS blackhole a few domains just in case, and it's primary method of getting games is cartridges, which is a nice to have (no internet needed to install a game). So I'm giving him an Innotab Sunday - my review is only based on what I've read, not first hand experience.

All in all - I'm not an anti-screentime dad, I'm an anti-passive dad, I want my kid imagining and engaging as the first and foremost. And I see a tablet, well used, as a vehicle to do that. I also think that he's gonna need tech to exist in the world we have, so let's figure it out.

Definitely avoiding cellphones without maximal supervision, even though it is a pinephone, which is in theory safer.
Ji Fu friendica (via ActivityPub)
Having given a tablet to my oldest when she was very young, we plan on putting it off as long as possible with the new one. The only thing I can recommend for your own sanity, block YouTube.
yeah, no youtube capabilities was a requirement!