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Sites for Kids in Digital Age Group

October 26, 2000|KAREN JONES | Karen Jones is a freelance writer specializing in children's interactive media. karen@kjnyc.com

Internet sites geared to children and families that want to build a loyal base need to provide engaging content in a safe environment. And if they can offer the right resources to help parents make informed decisions, all the better. That said, the following two sites are good additions to your browser's bookmarks: MaMaMedia is a venerable kids' favorite, and FamilyWonder helps parents keep up with the latest in children's media.

MaMaMedia

Launched in 1997, MaMaMedia at http://www.mamamedia.com is designed for children born in the digital age and ready to dive into today's technology. By offering "playful learning with technological fluency," MaMaMedia provides a digital playground with an emphasis on creative learning. Developed by technology experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, MaMaMedia utilizes new and traditional educational concepts to promote the three Xs--exploration, expression and exchange--along with the traditional three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic.

With 3.5 million registered users, MaMaMedia features four main channel areas--Zap, Romp, Surprise and Buzz. Zap allows kids to design their own screen interfaces complete with wallpaper, buttons and digital creatures, which are similar to online avatars. After designing a "creature," they appear throughout the site as a virtual alter ego.

Romp serves as a Web guide to safe and recommended sites and also offers themed activities. For example, clicking on the My Planet tab and then Egypt brings up a page about modern and ancient Egypt, plus links to sites describing animals, language, food, geography and more.

Surprise lets users play a variety of puzzles and games, build multimedia cities and create and send animated cards. The Buzz area provides a forum to share ideas with other users, exchange projects and join clubs such as Computer, Movie, Games and Power-Up.

MaMaMedia stakes its claim on the Internet by offering a relaxing and easy environment for children to learn, explore and have a lot of fun.

FamilyWonder

From Harry Potter to Pokemon, parents are inundated with a constant barrage of commercial pitches for children's products--from toys and video games to books and educational software. There are few places they can go to find a safe, reliable resource for critical reviews, news and advice on what is appropriate for kids of all ages. FamilyWonder at http://www.familywonder.com is a comprehensive family-friendly Web site and one-stop destination for parents who want to stay in the loop.

Covering children's toys, Web sites, books, TV, music, video, DVDs and video games, FamilyWonder is designed for parents to get the information they need without much hassle. It is focused primarily on entertainment products for children and the family, though all is written with a kid-friendly credo that adheres to a strict proprietary ratings system.

For example, in the video games section, an area where parents are understandably nervous, a Mature-rated game such as "Quake 2" receives a FamilyWonder rating of F for extreme violence. Not surprisingly, "Barbie Super Sports" rates an overall A-. The reviews also do more than list violent content and parental advisories. They offer a full look at the title, including its entertainment and educational value, skills required and appropriate age groups.

In addition to reviews, news and features, FamilyWonder is also a full-service online shopping portal. In keeping with its mission statement, no mature products in any medium, including movies, DVDs, videos, video games and music CDs, are sold.

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Kids' Web Sites

MaMaMedia

Relaxing environment for kids

http://www.mamamedia.com

FamilyWonder

Solid product advice for parents

http://www.familywonder.com

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