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Friday, June 1, 2012

Pen Pal Kids Club Review

I never had a pen pal growing up.  I know it's a popular concept, it just wasn't one I ever pursued or my mom ever pursued for me.  But Shelley Aliotti, the creator of a relatively new website for kids, the Pen Pal Kids Club, did have a pen pal, and it made a lifelong impression on her.  So much so, that she wrote a book called My Pen Pal Scrapbook that is out of print now, but is readable at the Pen Pal Kids Club site.  It is a wonderful resource about children around the world. 

Embracing modern technology, Ms. Aliotti has now taken her love for pen pals into the virtual world, creating a site where kids can interact with other kids from around the globe.  Here's a little information from their site:
“Explore the World. Make Friends Forever.”™ Pen Pals can share digital postcards in their preferred languages and learn about their new friends' differences and similarities, their cultures and lifestyles, their hopes and dreams.
In our Exploration & Learning Library - you and your children or students will soon be learning new things about the world through Encyclopædia Britannica Kids. PPKC offers their child-friendly filtered international information on many subject matters.
Play games...Each of our games was founded in subject matter relating to world history, culture, social studies, economics, geography and government, to share knowledge about the world around you.

While they seek to be a place where children from around the world can interact, they also adhere to high safety standards, as set forth in the Child Online Protection Act.  Parents can decide how much a child can share, and can even login as the child to see exactly what they have been up to. 

The pros: This site looks really cool and has tons of potential.  I think technology has definitely shown us that it really is a small world after all, and I love the idea that children around the globe are invited to share with each other what's the same and what's different about their lives.  And the site has no outside advertisers, so it is completely self contained and you're kids can't "click away" to another site.

The cons:  I only had a week to look this over before having to offer this review.  Unfortunately, I think the site is not widely used yet, and in that week I had the chance to get my daughter set up and request some pen pals, but not really interact with any as many that looked promising via shared interests had not been active in a while.  I was disappointed to see there isn't any sort of age grouping that I found.  After all, it's not really practical for my 7 year old to be a pen pal with a 14 year old.  I wanted to be able to easily find younger pen pals for her, and older ones for my older kids.  And now, for some reason, I can't get into our accounts at all :-(.  They are still active, but I can't get in.  (Edited to add: After several days, I contacted PPKC about my problem and was told the site was down to fix some bugs, but now it's a day and a half later and I still haven't been able to get in.)

The bottom line:  I don't know.  I want this to be a great site, but my experiences so far have been lacking.  I definitely would not pay for it based on what we've seen so far, but I've been locked out, so we hardly had the chance to give it much of a try.  If you want to check it out, it is free for your first 30 days.  After that, it's $2.99 a month, or $29.99 a year. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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