As a guitar teacher I often hear the phrase "I'm going to buy my son/daughter an acoustic guitar so they can learn the basics."
Parents...you are wrong. It all depends on what your child interests are. If they are 15 and into death metal, an acoustic guitar will not be the right choice. This also applies to 12-year-old AC-DC enthusiasts. Odds are, they have seen school of rock and perceive the guitar as a magical instrument that channel their emotions into pure audio bliss. They are correct. When starting to play guitar the motivation to learn can come from being able to copy the music of your heroes. This magical effect of the guitar can easy be crushed by not learning "fun" music.
On the other hand some kids just want to sing at camp or with a worship band. In this situation an acoustic guitar is a great choice.
The cost factor. Electric versus acoustic. In a nutshell, electric guitar does cost a little more. You need to purchase an amplifier and possibly some effects pedals. You may think "but I can get a 'First Act' guitar from Costco or Walmart for $50 with an amp" DON'T DO IT! These guitars are nothing but a very cheap...almost thrill. They don't stay in tune and sound horrible. The intonation is always terrible.
Beginner electric guitar Brands that I suggest are:
Squier: stratocasters or telecasters. They are built well for what you pay (around $150 for a starter pack) They play well and look like the more expensive guitars
Epiphone: Les Paul Special, SG. They have the cool Gibson look without paying $5000
NOTE: if your child is still small I suggest the Squier mini-strat. It has most of the same features as the full sized guitars but is built for smaller hands.
Beginner Acoustic brands:
Denver: These are cheap guitars starting around $80 for 1/2 and 3/4 size. The intonation is decent, and they stay in tune.
Yamaha: For around $150 you can get a FG300 which is actually quite a nice guitar. If you're lucky you can find one used for around $100. Overall Yamaha offers a great value for their instruments. I personally own four Yamaha guitars.
Epiphone: Prices in every range and is dependable.
That's about it for my article. Here are some final tips.
1. Listen to your children regarding what music they like. They are taking lessons, not you.
2.Don't buy more than you need. A simple starter pack should be sufficient. As they improve, then talk about nicer guitars.
3. Music is fun, let it be.
p.s. All of you trollers please stay out of this discussion. Yes, you may have a 1959 Les Paul, and play like Steve Vai, but this place is not for you.
To all other I invite you to add to the list of brands that are great to start with.