By Marie Flanagan April 27, 2021
Summary: If you’re stuck on what to buy the graduates and parent figures in your life this summer, look no further. From new computers to smart home equipment to wearable tech, we’ve got this year’s hottest picks. All you’ll need is a high-speed internet connection.
Spring is here, so graduation season — plus Mother’s and Father’s Day — is just around the corner. However you’re celebrating the circled days on the calendar this summer, we’re guessing you’ll probably be looking for gifts. If you’re stumped on what present will be exciting and practical, look no further.
We’ve rounded up our top technology choices for graduates, mother and father figures, and more.
Whether your graduate is going on to continue their education or join the workforce, they’ll appreciate some new equipment. We’ve got three picks to cover any price point. Crisp new diploma not included.
Regardless of what your graduate is pursuing, a new laptop is likely a must-have. With more classes, assignments, and meetings having online components, a laptop that can keep up with demands and has a long battery life is the ideal solution. Before you go grabbing the latest model off the shelf, though, make sure you talk with the grad about their needs. Some programs or work environments specifically call for a certain brand or specs.
Want to keep the gift a surprise but not purchase the wrong device? Place a note in a card explaining that their new computer is paid for — they just have to pick it out.
A smaller (and often less costly) alternative to a laptop is a tablet, such as an iPad or Microsoft Surface Pro. Particularly for students who are on the go, a tablet can provide the hand-held portability of a phone while having capabilities closer to a laptop. That’s what we call the best of both worlds. Again, we’d suggest talking to your grad before making the purchase to be sure it meets their needs. We promise they’ll be just as excited.
If they’ve already got a tablet, consider an accessory like a keyboard. Slim keyboards are portable and offer even more versatility. Bonus? They make it easier to take notes in class.
We know it’s less exciting than a new computer, but hear us out. Antivirus software and identity theft protection is something that most people won’t think about until it’s too late. And for younger internet users, like high school and college students, it could do a lot of damage — think anything from hacking their new savings account to losing every assignment and project.
Features to look for include dark web monitoring, protection across multiple devices, and a protection package that helps navigate repercussions (like unauthorized bank charges). Public WiFi connections — like those at coffee shops — are notoriously risky, so your grad will be sure to thank you every time they’re sipping a latte while studying.
Rather than gifting Mom a new pair of earrings or a bouquet of flowers, why not switch things up this year with a tech gift?
If upgrading to a full-on smart home isn’t in the immediate future, a smart outlet is one way to upgrade existing appliances. Smart outlets can be easily plugged into any wall outlet — just plug in a lamp, fan, or another device that can be “on” or “off” and control the rest through the app. Smart plugs can be especially helpful for people who have difficulty turning on switches. Plus, you can turn your devices on even if you’re not home, no automatic timers needed.
Digital picture frames have been around for quite some time now, but the newer versions allow you to add new pictures to the rotation without plugging the frame in. Some newer models even allow the photos to be organized in a specific order if chronology is your thing. If you’ve got family members who enjoy updated photos, this is just about as good as it gets.
For those with multiple streaming subscriptions, a streaming stick or box can make watching TV or movies simpler and way more fun. Options like Apple TV, Roku, or Fire Stick keep all your entertainment options in one spot and can basically upgrade any TV to a Smart TV. Most streaming devices have user-friendly interfaces, feature voice controls, and will even automatically learn your preferences over time.
Dads can be extra tough to buy for — often feeling like they truly are “the man who has everything.” If you’re trying to avoid repeating the new-tie or tools standby, let us help.
Smart home options abound, but if you’re buying for a beginner, a video doorbell (such as Nest or Ring) is a popular place to start. Smart doorbells offer enhanced security for your home and any packages that get delivered. They also include speakers and microphones, allowing you to speak to any visitors — even when you’re not home. Plus, you can get an alert about any suspicious activity.
If tech for the interior of a home is more up your dad’s alley, a smart thermostat might be the way to go. Not only can these be programmed to automatically adjust to energy-saving temperatures, but they can also be adjusted from anywhere with your smartphone. No more leaving for vacation and wondering if you turned the air conditioning down. The answer is in the palm of your hand.
If you’re shopping for a cooking enthusiast, grab a wireless meat thermometer. These beat out the analog kind in a few ways. First, they read much faster and more consistently. No more wondering if your meal is cooked evenly the entire way through. Even better, the thermometer can stay in place throughout the entire cooking process, sending an alert when the meal is done. It’s perfect for seamless socializing without burning dinner.
Some gifts defy strict categories. Here are some of our favorites. Who knows, you might find something for yourself, too.
One of the most prevalent pieces of wearable tech, smartwatches have come a long way since being a glorified pedometer. While most models now do just about anything, they’re great for tracking fitness goals, monitoring sleep, and checking notifications without having to unlock a cell phone. Oh, and they do still tell time.
Wireless headphones are extremely versatile. For loved ones who are on the go, must have music when they’re working, are constantly on work calls, or generally like to be able to move around while still staying connected, these are a safe bet. Most wireless headphones also come in noise-canceling options, which can be a boon for students working in crowded dorms or parents trying to focus while their kids are home.
Shopping for a bookworm? The paper vs. electronic debate still goes on, but there’s no denying the convenience of eReaders. eBooks are available through any high-speed internet connection from public libraries and stores, and once downloaded, all those stories are at your fingertips. If you’re an outdoor reader, there are options for screens that are easier to read in the sun. For night readers, there are backlit screens, too. No more having to get up and turn off the light.
Oh, and this might make their home internet connection faster. No, really.
You’re sure to make the day of any graduate or parent with these gifts. Our other favorite suggestion? Reliable, high-speed internet with no data caps — a feature that becomes more important as the number of connected devices goes up. But you already knew that. We’ll be here when you need us.
Marie Flanagan is a contributing writer for EarthLink. She’s a life-long Atlantan with a passion for SaaS, IoT, AI, fintech, and everything technology. Her ideal offline situation is volunteering in STEM education for girls or on her front porch with a book.
See all posts from Marie Flanagan.