In the second of a series of interviews about new kid’s virtual worlds and social games, we talk to Mitch Carley, VP of Pen Pal Kids Club “the only ‘Global Social-Network edu-tainment website for children.”
Tell us a little bit about ‘Pen Pal Kids Club’…
Pen Pal Kids Club is a virtual community where real kids learn from and inspire each other via pen-pal’ing online, as a modern spin on the nostaglic “pen pal relationships”. Through virtual postcards from their pen pals, kids can share with each other on a global basis and receive translated responses in their language. While it feels like fun and play, children will also gain insights into other cultures from around the world.
The website is the continuation of the children’s book that Mrs. Aliotti wrote, illustrated and published in 1995 “My Pen Pal Scrapbook: An Educational Journey Through World Cultures”. The Pen Pal Kids Club website combines the elements of education, socialization and play, allowing kids to break down geographic and cultural barriers in a nostalgic fun, secure and interactive atmosphere.
What’s different about Pen Pal Kids Club?
In Pen Pal Kids Club, players can safely explore the virtual world, learn using Encyclopaedia Britannica for kids, play custom edu-tainment games, and best of all share with kids from around the world using personalized virtual Pen Pal postcards that are translated automatically. The automatic translations are in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian and German. In addition, they can also share personal videos.
We have an exclusive partnership with Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. for Kids, which is the world-leading online encyclopedia that has been collecting and offering data since 1768. This partnership ensures that every child gets age-appropriate and accurate text, graphs and videos around the clock, without any links to take them off the Pen Pal Kids Club site.
There is no other site on the planet that allows for all of that activity to take place safely and without advertisements.
What type of kids are your target audience?
We are targeting kids from 4 to 14 years from all countries and genders, but find that the most common demographic is from 6 to 10 years.
What gaming features are you using in-world?
Our game features are strictly ‘edu-taining’. They are all built on an educational foundation that is within and beyond US educational schooling standards, all while being very fun and challenging. We have single player games, a storyline game and a Massively Multiplayer Online game.
Are there any safety features in the virtual world?
Pen Pal Kids Club uses a unique family dashboard where parents can monitor all online activities of players within that family pack of five kids. The postcards sent between players are filtered for any questionable activity, and the system will flag any content for lifeguards (administrators). No questionable content will ever be knowingly released to our young players.
Are there any classroom resources?
Although we don’t have any classroom resources in this version, we plan on having full classroom resources on future releases.
How much does it cost to become a member?
Pen Pal Kids Club costs USD 4.99 per month for 5 members, but is currently free for July 2011.
How long did it take to build Pen Pal Kids Club and what platform are you using for the technology?
We developed the brand as you see it, in under 12 months, using a combination of HTML, Flash and the Amazon Cloud.
Are you involved in any product / marketing campaigns?
We are using Flypropeller to market Pen Pal Kids Club.
Do you have any future plans for the world?
Yes, Phase 2 has already commenced and it will really take Pen Pal Kids Club over the top. We believe that the day we launch that phase, safe kids social networking will change forever.
And finally, why should kids visit Pen Pal Kids Club?
Kids will have the ability to travel the world from their own home and gain possible friendships for life.
Silvia Gallagher is the Head of Content for AvatarGeneration. Her background is in online learning, virtual worlds, and educational games. In her spare time she likes riding bikes over mountains and playing around with new technology.