We were recently assigned to do a review of Kids Email Safe Email for Kids, and given a one-year subscription. I wasn’t at all sure we needed it, because when my children wanted to email someone I just let them use my gmail account. We were put on the review team, however, so I signed the four up who are in school this year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results, and may just end up paying for this service after our year ends.
Kids Email was started in 2009 as a safe way for children to email. Parents have the control over what happens with the child’s account; there are many settings you can tweak so that your child can only use it the way you want them to. All incoming and outgoing messages can be sent to your inbox, and you can set it so that only letters from approved senders are visible to your child (you have to approve a person the first time they send something). You can also set particular times or days when the program can be accessed, if you wish. There is also a filter watching for bad language. We had to laugh at one email that Mr. Imagination got from a cousin. The cousin was listing the baby animals on their farm, and one item in the list was 250 CENSORED. We knew from the context that it was chicks, and of course we knew it was the kind of chicks we approve of, but I was happy to see how the filter works.
Here is what I see when one of the boys gets an email from someone I haven’t previously approved:
One feature that my boys have loved playing with is the ability to draw pictures. They use the computer mouse, and can choose the size of line or dot they want, and the color, and draw whatever they want to. That is good eye/hand coordination! When they are finished, they simply attach the picture to the email they have written. I have heard some complaints that there aren’t enough colors, but otherwise they are very happy with that part of this email.
Here are a couple of the pictures they have come up with. This was at the beginning; they are getting a little more skillful now.
The boys also like that they can choose the background for their inbox. There are a number of pictures to choose from; I think all of them chose either the wolves or the horses. For girls, there are some princess-type pictures, too. These just make it more fun!
Another thing I really like about it is that it gives some of the boys a lot of practice in typing. They do typing courses, but this forces them to make up what they are typing as they go, rather than copying. I type what the younger ones dictate, but the older ones have to do it themselves, and then I help correct spelling so that the recipient can understand what they get! One problem we have run into, though, is that there doesn’t seem to be an autosave function. I might be missing something (it’s not unlikely), but if the page is accidentally reloaded, everything that has been typed so far is gone. Once, I was helping someone send an email that took a long time to write, and the internet blinked off, which it often does here. The email was lost. That usually brings tears of frustration, even if I help them redo the letter.
This program also grows with the children. When they are young, their address is @kidsemail.org, but when they are a bit older, you have the option of changing to @kmail.org, if they want a more adult-looking address. Children who use the kidsemail.org address have the option to have an incoming email read aloud to them. This worked the first time or two that we tried it, but after that it didn’t; probably my old computer was the problem. I like the idea—it’s another way to get children to practice reading as they follow along!
Overall, I am very happy with Kids Email. This is one review product that I didn’t think we needed, but I’m now glad we got it. Because of this, I have incorporated writing an email a week into each of their schedules, which is something I had wanted to do but never got around to doing. So, Grandma, aunts, and cousins get to hear from my children a little more! On the other hand, some of my boys aren’t too happy about it. They would rather not have to type something out of their heads, but rely on me to write letters when they want them sent.