A 'Netbook is very underpowered laptop/notebook.
It's great for light weight, long battery life and low cost if you're just checking e-mail, browsing the internet.
For the more ambitious student activities, like using MS Office programs Word and Powerpoint at the same time, a Netbook really struggles due to its weak Atom CPU and its low amount of RAM installed.
A 13" or 14" dual core laptop with 3GB or 4GB or RAM is probably a better option.
The Dell website has a 'Help Me Choose' tool that can give some guidance based on how the laptop is going to be used and your budget goal. Once you have an idea on which way you want to go check back here in the forum to see if anyone can find you a better deal, or better options. Dell and HP both have some pretty good sales from time to time and you can also find 'coupon deals' here and there.
well, if he is going to need it for everything i say you should choose a laptop. netbooks are for people who travel a lot and only need it for e-mail, conferences, data carry etc. Your kid will probably want to do more: games, music, photoshop, IM and so on. A medium-level laptop is very cheap these days. i would recommend a dual-core cpu, minimum 2 gb of ram, generous hard drive and video card. Choose well!!