At what age should a child have an email address of their own? It's a difficult question to answer ... sure it would be nice for kids to be able to send Gran a picture they've drawn, but would they know not to trust that Nigerian prince and his offers of riches? Well, Maily might be the solution. It's an iPad app which gives children from the age of four a simple and secure email account which is managed and monitored by their parents.
The free app, which requires an adult to act as administrator, gives kids five tools – writing pencils, paint brushes, photos, backgrounds and stamps – to create visual emails along with their own words. After being logged in to the app, children use a pop-up menu to navigate the various tools.
While the brushes let children create digital artworks, the pencils give little ones the opportunity to write things with their fingers. There are also more than 30 backgrounds, ranging from paper effects to images of space rockets, and 30 stamps (think planes, monsters and dogs) to ensure messages retain a kiddie feel and do not resemble boring corporate emails. The iPad camera can also be used to insert photos.
The clever bit is that parents are completely in charge of who their children communicate with, and how. Children only have the ability to send and receive emails from contacts added by their parents, and emails can be set to require approval before they are sent or received, with parents being sent a copy to check first.
Children select who they want to email by tapping on an image of the face bearing the name which they use to refer to the recipient, whether that's Dad, Daddy or Papa. Once sent, the emails arrive in a normal inbox and users can then reply using the the Maily Dashboard to respond in a child-friendly and visual manner. The dashboard gives adults the option to select an image or animation and then add their email text.
"We've noticed how easy and agile kids handle the iPad, and were surprised that no easy and adapted way of communicating for kids exists," Galle told Gizmag. "So we decided to build one, and re-think the concept of email to the needs of kids from four years old. The development process of the app was quite long and exhausting – but what kept us going was receiving regular emails by our friends' kids ... During the testing, we were amazed by how quickly they understood the concept of sending and receiving emails, even with young kids with the age of four."
While the Maily app can be downloaded for free, its makers say that in the future they may introduce a store where parents can buy new tools for their kids, (such as video, sound, new brushes, or a second account) or selective advertising, which they stress would only be seen on the parent/contact dashboard.
Here's a quick video that shows the app in use.
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