Bottom Line: Safe introduction to the joys of instant communication for kids, but doesn't offer enough for the subscription fees.
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If the grandparents are clamoring for mail from their grandkids, but you are afraid to open your little ones up to solicitations for Cialis and the pleas of neighbors stranded in foreign places with no money, passports or credit cards, then Kids Email by Ruby Web, LLC offers an alternative to using your email account. Kids Email is free to download but requires a subscription to access the email service. It is available for iPhone, iPad and on Android. The subscriptions are $4.95 per month for up to four addresses and $38.95 per year for up to six different accounts.
Set up is fairly simple but requires going on the kidsemail website rather than completing through the app. Parents are able to provide their kids with a dedicated email address with either a kidsmail extension or a kmail address for older kids. I like that there is an option for older kids, and kmail sounds enough like gmail that kids of a certain age won't be embarrassed to write their friends from the account. Once setup is complete, accounts are accessible though the app and require only a simple login for the child to complete. I was able to secure KyleGoodman@kmail.org with no problem. Feel free to drop him a line.
Multiple kids can be added to the account and each child's profile can be customized with as much or little parental oversight as deemed necessary. Options include restricting attachments, links and photos and receiving a blind cc on all outgoing and incoming mail. Do I really want to hear my son complain to my mother or worse my mother-in-law about what a mean ogre mother I am for making him do his homework?
Only addresses in the pre-approved contacts list are accessible to the child so again the app provides a high degree of protection. The interface on the kmail login looks similar to any email server. The login screen asks for user name and a password. Kids have a To line, a Subject line and a Message box for composing their mail. There is an inbox with an alert for new mail, a compose button, a search function and settings. The kidsemail interface is similar except the login page has a princess and lion.
Although the app is fairly new, the email service itself has been around since 2006. I was able to both send and receive emails easily. Kids can attach photos from the device photo roll with a single click or take a photo. This is handy and much easier than guiding a child through saving photos on a PC or Mac or finding them. I sent a question to customer service and received an answer within a few hours. That's great service but my answer was that the logout feature I was looking for is not yet available in the app.
First, the prices are far too high. $4.95 a month/$38.95 a year is going to eliminate almost all of the app-buying market, which has grown accustomed to finding fantastic apps for $2 or less.
Second, the free app Maily will be a better solution for many younger kids because it offers the possibility of drawing emails and has a far-better interface for that age group. Kids Email offers few if any child friendly tools to write emails. We also had a tough time trying to use the search function because there are no instructions in the app.
Third, it was a tad buggy. On two of the three iPads we tried it on, a reply button on the emails didn't work.
Additionally, there is no spell check that I saw. The keyboard is the standard qwerty which is fine for older kids who have been exposed to it, but those using kidsemail.org addresses really should have an ABC keyboard option.
I would also suggest some clickable options to ease the process. Since recipients are pre-configured, a click wheel of options could be used for the salutation. The same goes for signatures. Even a fill in the blank form letter might not be a bad idea. My child sent letters from sleep away camp that said "Food is good. Your son Kyle." The younger children really need some starters or prompts to help with their letter writing. The ability to add emoticons would also be a welcome addition as they certainly figure prominently in teens' text messages.
Jill Goodman has two little emailers who have lots to say. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.