If your child is constantly asking to use your phone or tablet to play games or to do their homework, you face a dilemma. Do you let them loose to roam the internet without supervision or do you try and shield them from technology altogether? Chances are you don’t want to do either. That’s where the Meep! tablet from Oregon Scientific comes in. Now you can let your child have their very own tablet without worrying about them stumbling into the darker corners of the internet.
There are other tablets on the market aimed at kids, but many of them are very limited and are just gimmicky toys. The Meep! however, is a real tablet. It’s a 7″ tablet running the Android OS (4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich). But in order restrict access, they have installed their own software on top of the basic OS. If you know the Android OS already, you will have no problem navigating the system. However, if you are an iOS user you’ll have to take your time getting used to it.
The screen is a 800 x 480 resolution, TFT-LCD, so not as nice as the iPad or higher-end Android tablets. But it should be more than sufficient for younger children. It includes 4gb of memory with a Micro-SD slot for added storage. It has USB and HDMI ports as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for connectivity. It also comes with a silicone skin so that it will not easily slip out of their hands while playing.
Aside from the basic Android menu at the base of the screen, the Meep! menu system greets you on the home screen. It’s very straightforward – the left side is used for communication, and the right side for apps. The communication offered is actually just a text based chat system that only works with other Meep! tablets or with parents through the Meep! Web Portal. On the app side, you’ll find: Games, e-Books, Camera, Videos, Music, Pictures, Web Browser, YouTube, Apps (user-downloaded from Google Play), a Safety guide, Help, Basic Settings and finally Parental Settings.
Meep! also comes with 30 games, including Angry Birds, Panzer Panic and Doodle Physics. You can download other games and apps through Google Play. There is a 0.3 mega-pixel camera for taking pics and video. Pretty low-res, but sufficient for younger children. There are 3 e-Books pre-loaded, one of them with read-along audio. There are also some sample songs, videos and pictures in their respective apps.
The battery life is not great on Meep!, though considering that the idea behind it is to limit daily usage, several hours should be plenty. Just make sure and charge it each night.
In addition there are a variety of accessories available from Oregon Scientific to compliment the Meep!, such as: Headphones, Microphone, Drums, Keyboard, Joystick, etc.
This is where the Meep! tablet really shines. Through cloud-based parental controls you can monitor your child’s activity, even while you are away at work. You can restrict how much time your child spends each day on Games, Apps, etc. from as little as 15 minutes to several hours or even unlimited. Most changes that are made online are instantly reflected on the device. Each day the timer resets.
My 11 year old nephew helped me out this week on this review and he loves the Meep! A problem for him is not wanting to stop playing a game when his mom says that his time is up. But with the Meep!, when the timer ran out, it simply stopped the game and there was no discussion. This is definitely a feature that will help out many parents.
The built in Web Browser and YouTube apps are extremely limited and include content aimed at very young children. If you would like to grant them access to another website or video, you can do so through the web portal. Even then, the safety restrictions are in place. If a child tries to click on a search result that contains anything even slightly inappropriate, it will be blocked. In addition, there is an ongoing log of all activity, including search words, on the web portal. So can monitor your child’s activity as closely as you would like.
It is important to remember that these safety measures are not absolute. If you allow access to Google Play, any and all apps can be downloaded and used by your child. This is a good thing for downloading current games and apps like Skype, etc that you may find useful. However, when it comes to downloading other Internet browsers, remember that the safety filters will not be in effect.
Another important note is that the basic Android system settings are always accessible at the bottom right of the screen. So if your child starts poking around and clicking buttons, it is possible to mess up the Wi-Fi connection and even reset the entire device.
Overall, the parental controls will provide parents with peace of mind knowing that their child can enjoy technology without being exposed to the possible dangers of the internet -or accidentally charging up big bills with In-App purchases.
As an introductory tablet for children the Meep! from Oregin Scientific, is an excellent product. Some reviewers have made the mistake of comparing it to other tablets from Apple, Samsung, etc. If you do, of course it doesn’t compare. The strengths of the Meep! are its price (currently available as low as $99) and its built-in parental controls. I think you’ll love the Meep! and so will your child. You can pick one up right now at ToysRUs.
The Good: Cloud-based parental controls, an actual Android tablet not a toy, low price, tough construction
The Bad: Not the best screen or camera, mediocre battery life.