MouseMail Review & $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

When I was growing up, parents didn’t really give much thought to how they were going to prepare their kids for technology. It was the 70s and 80s, after all, and the only real technology on our horizon was a home computer that ran MS-DOS or the sah-weet Texas Instruments calculator that marked the beginning of pre-calculus. Well, and there was also the Brother Word Processor that I took to college my junior year, but considering that all I could do with it was 1) type papers and 2) print papers, it didn’t really add to my understanding about the responsibilities that go along with technology. Unless the responsibilities involved buying pricey typewriter ribbons, of course.

But the times, they have changed. And as the mama of an eight year-old, I sometimes feel a little bit panicked when I think of everything that’s “out there.” Between the web, texting, Facebook, emailing and IM’ing, there’s just a lot to consider, you know? So far our little guy’s computer use is restricted to about five sites that we have bookmarked for him, and the computer that he uses is in a wide-open area right off of our kitchen, AS IT FOREVER WILL BE. But I know the day is coming when we’ll need to help him broaden his technological horizons – for schoolwork if nothing else – and I want to be sure that we teach him well.

So, given all of that, it was a no-brainer for me when BlogHer asked if I’d like to review MouseMail, a web-based email client that’s geared toward first-time email users and designed to help parents supervise and protect their kids. I thought the concept sounded great, and while an email account is probably a year or two down the road for our little guy, I’m all for testing out options that will enable us to navigate unchartered email territory a little easier when the time comes. Not to mention the fact that I was delighted to hear that a company was forward-thinking enough to recognize that there are a lot of parents who want to be a part of the process when it comes to introducing technology to their kids.

A couple of weeks ago I went to MouseMail.com and set up an account for me and an account for Alex. I wanted to know how much control I’d have over his account, and I also wanted to know what the email interface would be like for him. What I’ve discovered as I’ve taken the service for a little “test drive,” so to speak, is that there are several aspects that I definitely like – but a few that I would change if I could.

What do I like?

Well, here’s a list.

1) The parent can see any message that comes into or goes out of the child’s email account. On top of that, a message doesn’t even make it to the child’s inbox until the parent has approved the message or the sender. I think that’s great. Parents can also approve contacts (like, say, a sibling or a grandparent) so that those emails go directly to the child’s inbox, but if those emails contain any language that’s listed as inappropriate in the MouseMail dictionary, the message is flagged and sits in moderation until the parent has a chance to look at it.

2) MouseMail comes complete with a dictionary that flags inappropriate words and abbreviations. Parents can add to that dictionary as frequently as they like.

3) A parent can monitor accounts for all of their children from one central dashboard. If you have four kids with email accounts, you can adjust their individual settings to whatever might be age-appropriate for them, and you don’t have to log in and log out of five different accounts to do that. Having all the kids’ email addresses in one place is much more efficient and convenient. You just click on a child’s name, see if there’s anything to review, then move on to the next child.

4) The interface is very kid-friendly. It’s straightforward, and it’s icon-driven. As tech-savvy as kids are today, there’s no question that they’d be comfortably emailing within five minutes of logging on for the first time. It’s always nice to be able to introduce something new without frustration for you or your kids.

5) Parents control what features kids can use. MouseMail also offers web texting and games (more on those things later), but parents can modify those features so that kids can’t use them. Parents can also control the times of day (and days of the week) when kids can use the web texting feature, and I think that will come in handy for parents who want for their children to use that feature.

What would I change?

1) MouseMail comes with games. I’m not sure why this is necessary, but I initially figured it was harmless and no big deal. However, after I clicked around a little bit, I realized that each game contains a link to a gaming site. I thought maybe the link only worked for parents, but when I logged in to Alex’s account, I realized that links work for kids, too. It seems a little strange to me that an email service designed to protect kids would have links to sites that I’d never allow my child to visit at this stage in his life. Parents can block the games so that kids can’t see them, but there are over 30 games, and it was kind of a pain to go through and individually block every single one.

I’d love to see a “block all” option. Plus, the games icon still shows up at the bottom of the big list of red icons on the child’s mail dashboard – even if all of the games are blocked. If there’s a way to block the games icon and prevent it from showing up on the child’s account, I haven’t figured it out yet.

2) MouseMail also comes with web texting. Kids just click on a phone icon, and at that point they can either select a contact (which has been approved by the parent) or enter in a phone number. I think that being able to enter in a phone number is a bad idea. Just to see how it worked, I signed in to Alex’s account and entered a friend’s phone number. I was able to send that friend a text without the text going to moderation for parent review. My friend’s reply did go to moderation, which is good, but I just don’t love the thought of young kids being able to text random numbers. There was a work-around, though; I went into the parent settings and created a rule that pretty much turned off the texting feature.

The icon still shows up on the child’s dashboard, though – and if there’s a way to get rid of it, I haven’t found it.

3) There’s a tasks feature where a parent can enter a chore or assignment, and then kids earn MouseMail points when the task is completed. Kids also earn points that go in their MouseMail “bank” when they answer a question correctly when they log in. Keeping up with points and rewards and all that sort of stuff just isn’t my thing, so that’s definitely a feature that I’d turn off if I could. And I’d remove the icon on my child’s dashboard, too. :-)

All in all, I think MouseMail is a great concept. I so appreciate that they’re trying to cooperate with parents as we help our kids learn to be responsible and safe as far as technology is concerned. I also recognize that it’s a free service that will no doubt provide a lot of value for thousands of parents. I would love, though, to have the option to pay a minimal fee in order to have greater customization. I think it would be great if parents could remove the icons of features that they don’t want their kids to use.

MouseMail is definitely on the right track, and I’ll be curious to see how they modify and improve this much-needed email option. I’ll continue to check my account so that I can keep up with changes, and I’ll definitely consider MouseMail when it’s time for our little boy to have his first email account. I hope that it’ll be more customizable when that day comes.

So what about you? Do you have any practical tips for helping kids learn how to be responsible with technology? Do you think there’s an ideal age to introduce email? Or cell phones? Leave your feedback in the comments, and you’ll be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card courtesy of BlogHer.

Also, visit the BlogHer Promotions and Prizes section for more chances to win!

This sweepstakes will run from 7/18-8/15.

Can’t wait to hear from y’all – and good luck!

No duplicate comments.

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d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about
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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older

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You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be
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The Official Rules are available here.

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Comments

  1. A requirement for a phone in our house is that our two boys (11 & 8) will have to wait until they can pay for their own cell phone and service each month. Not happening any time soon!

  2. call me a prude but I really don’t think kids are really ready for emails until they are about 13 and even then I want to be able to have access.

  3. I think it’s important to not introduce too much technology to kids at a very young age. I’m shocked that elementary age kids have cell phones now!

    Supervision on the computer is key!
    nrdunningATgmailDOTcom

  4. My son is going into 7th grade and has more after school activities so we got him a cell phone that he can use on those days. Otherwise it stays at home. I do check to see what kind of texts he sends. I’m not sure if he realizes it just yet. He also has an email address that is linked to mine. He knows that while he is living under our roof, I will have access to any or all passwords or pages. No way will he have a FB account for a few more years. No need and while he asks, I think it ‘s more because other people have it, not that he really wants it.

  5. mickeyfan says:

    As a grandma, it amazes me that such young children have cell phones. Why? And you can bet I am going to be telling my friends with younger kids about this since I know a lot of them are concerned about them and their online presence.

  6. I think you have to talk honestly with your children about it and make sure technology is in an open/shared room so you can monitor…
    thanks
    kmassmanATgmailDOTcom

  7. ANGEL JACKLYN says:

    IT’S REALLY HARD TO SAY BECAUSE THEIR PEERS ARE SO INFLUENCING. I HAVE TO ADMIT I HAVE A HARD TIME DENYING MY GIRL ANYTHING. SO I’D BE GOING WITH WHAT THEIR FRIENDS ARE INTO & WHEN THEY’RE INTRODUCED TO THINGS THRU THEM- IF THAT MAKES A SENSE, LOL.

    kytah00 @ yahoo . com

  8. ANGEL JACKLYN says:

    2ND ENTRY TWEET @ http://twitter.com/#!/kytah00/status/95313651212357632

    kytah00 @ yahoo . com

  9. My daughter is 9 and is already asking when she can have a cell phone. I don’t really think kids “need” phones until they are driving (teens) but I’ve told her we’ll wait and see until middle school. That seems to be a good answer for now. ;) But I’ve drilled into her that she doesn’t “need” a cell phone since she is always with a parent or adult!

  10. Kyl Neusch says:

    a good age is about 13s

  11. Mary Beth Elderton says:

    I think this is an excellent system for boosting tech savvy while keeping kids safe! As for what age to start, that depends on the child.

  12. james young, II says:

    thanks

  13. I don’t think there is an ideal age to have an email account or cell phone. When my son was 11, he had his own email account where I was the only one that knew the password. There was adult SPAM in the account when I looked. I did buy my son a cell phone when he was 8, but after the 3rd time a phone went through the washer, I decided we weren’t at the point to have a cell phone for every member of the family.

  14. Selinda McCumbers says:

    So far I let my son use my email and set up the address and such before he types. He is young though and I don’t know when he will think that is not an okay idea!

    Thanks!

  15. My son is almost 12 and we’re about ready to get him a cell phone. I think if he can keep track of the phone, it would really help us out. He is in a lot of after school activities and going to friends houses. I’m not sure he would use e-mail much, but I love the calendar feature of this program!

  16. Maybe introduce email at 13 years old for children.

  17. tracey byram says:

    I don´t believe a child is responsible enough for most technology until they are at least 12.

  18. Wow, this was a great review of what they have to offer. Thanks!

  19. karen M says:

    Cell phone for the tweens if they are responsible to take care of them. Start off with a small plan, if they get to over doing the texting… it is time to put away. I like the feature of the kids able to text us while we are away, and the extra points they can earn for task completed. Our teen has an email that he keeps up with his scouting activities, the tween as asked but not sure if she really needs one yet.

  20. Scott Martin says:

    I worry about how my kids are being treeted by their peers online. It is a lot easier to make fun of someone when you can’t see them face to face.

    THANKS for the AWESOME GIVEAWAY!!!

    Scott Martin

    spmartin122@gmail.com

  21. Sarah Hirsch says:

    i think monitoring what they are doing online and setting time limits are both important. i don’t think they need emails or cell phones until they are teenagers.

  22. Our kids can’t be on the computer without us knowing exactly what is going on. My older son does have a facebook page, but he knows it is strictly monitered.

  23. We monitor our kids’ use of the internet pretty closely. Of our five children, only our oldest has an email and facebook account, though the others are begging to have one. Mouse Mail just might be our solution! It’s so difficult to stay on top of everything that kids are doing now with the computer and cell phones, so it’s wonderful that there is a solution available to make it easier! :)

    kami @ mybeautifulday . net

  24. I also tweeted this:

    http://twitter.com/#!/kamrajoy/status/96229347349897216

    kami @ mybeautifulday . net

  25. We gave my daughter computer rights as soon as she started school, provided she used it in front of us for homework.At one point we put a monitor program on the computer that gave us print outs of any chats she had with her friends and any site she visited.

  26. i think kids should open an email account or get a cell phone when they are in high school

  27. Kelly K. says:

    I think until children can show respect for their own things as well as others they really have no need for things like cellphones, etc.

  28. Geoff K says:

    I think it’s a good idea to equip kids with cell phones as soon as they begin hanging out with friends without direct adult supervision but one tip I’ve found useful is to take a portion of their allowance out for overusing the phone or going over their text message limit on our family plan. I also monitor their contact list so I know who everyone is that they’re calling and receiving calls from. I don’t see the harm in teaching even young kids about email, especially since many schools are using email lists and message boards as part of the classroom now, but again it’s key to make sure there are no unknown or suspicious contacts getting through. Mouse Mail sounds like it’ll be a huge help in that regard!

  29. Geoff K says:

    I tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/guettel78/status/96654673855000576

    gkaufmanss at yahoo dot com

  30. I think sports and other outdoor activities are great for kids b/c it helps them stay active and away from too much sitting and technology in the world we are living in!

  31. I love that. Sounds so cool.
    My kids are older and tech savvy. They have to help me these days. But they originally started with their own email in middle school. Each of them have been very responsible and well behaved. We have all access to everything they do online and have all passwords. We’ve been known to do random checks on what they’re doing. Accountability helps make responsible users.

  32. I think no cell phone till they’re in their teens at least. email comes before.

  33. Eugenie says:

    there’s more peer pressure than ever to ‘have’ gadgets but that’s not the reason to give your kids more gadgets. there’s a place for cell phones (you can reach them) but kids have to be mature enough to use them responsibly especially not in school. maybe age 14-15?

  34. Karen Gonyea says:

    My daughter got her first cell phone when she turned 15…. and she was the LAST of her friends to get one.

  35. Annie Adams says:

    I don’t feel that a child needs email until at least 15. Kids are more interested in texting anyhow. Their phone usage should be monitored often. Online activities should be monitored consistently.

  36. I love this idea! My seven year old grandson has been begging for an email account, but his mom is uneasy-this would set her mind at ease.
    smchester at gmail dot com

  37. Janna Johnson says:

    I think it’s good to be open and honest and show kids at an early age. That way they won’t be expecting it to be some great thing.
    Thanks so much!! Janna Johnson jannajanna@hotmail.com janna@feedyoupig on gfc

  38. LAMusing says:

    cell phone age… hmmm… personal situations vary of course, but an emergency only phone is good once they are of an age to be away from their parents for any length of time – one where they can only make calls to approved phone numbers (mom, dad, and /or other approved adult that could pick up child if needed). As for a regular use cell phone – I would insist on no texting feature, and they have to be old enough to buy their own phone!

  39. This kind of program sounds like a great way to introduce kids to email in a safe way

  40. Since my children are grown, I do not monitor their internet use. But we were recently visiting with some friends who have a 10 year old that they just recently allowed to set up a FaceBook page, and my daughter gave them some hints about hiding her information. She was there and was fully aware that her mother checked her page routinely and seemed very comfortable with that.

  41. I don’t think young kids need cell phones. They do use my iPad to watch cartoons.

  42. Kelly D says:

    I think this would be a good way to supervise my son’s web use. He is entering kindergarten next month and I know he will have to be online soon.

  43. Kelly D says:
  44. momznite says:

    I’m still figuring it out as we go along, but good parent-child communication seems critical in the process of keeping kids safe with the evolving technology.
    momznite_at_yahoo_daught_com

  45. Laurie in Minne*NO SNOW*ta says:

    My son got his first cell phone the day after we got our wires crossed after basketball practice and he waited for me for an hour…in the dark…when he was about 13-14…

  46. Cynthia C says:

    I think as soon as a child can communicate, limited email to relatives is nice. I do think all use should be strictly monitored until high school.

  47. Cynthia C says:
  48. I think a (very monitored) email account can make sense as soon as a kid is old enough to write emails. Might as well teach them responsibility early while it’s only their grandparents and family that are worth emailing!

  49. Do you have any practical tips for helping kids learn how to be responsible with technology?

    As a sys admin, I can set reasonable access rules on the server software. I have seen some kids get around it, so it isn’t a panacea…

    Do you think there’s an ideal age to introduce email? Or cell phones?

    Don’t know about email… If a person were born after 1995, then they have never lived in a world where there was no email. It’s ubiquitous. The wheels commerce would grind to a halt without – or so they would like you to believe. If it were my kid, (I don’t have an kids, so this applies to my neice), I would wait until I thought they were ready.

    Cells phones are simple – I don’t have a cell phone and I live quite nicely. And I don’t have a phone attached to my ear. I, also, don’t have a bluetooth headset so it looks like I am walking around talking to myself…

    So, no cell phones for my kid…

  50. blogged your giveaway on my blog at: http://ggggiveaways.blogspot.com/2011/08/help-your-kids-use-internet-safely.html

    mtdoonmeister at gmail dot com

  51. This program sounds great! I think email and cellphone use needs to be monitored for sure, and in my house, chatrooms are totally out. Too hard to feel safe about what they’ll be exposed to.

  52. My little grandson is 6 and he has a cell phone. We have it set up where there are only certain people he can call and no texts. He is only allowed to carry it when he is outside playing with friends or at a friend’s house and has to check in. I always said that children having cell phones was ridiculous but I can’t tell you how much better I feel knowing I can reach him and vice versa all the time.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    eswright18 at gmail dot com

  53. Angella says:

    I think you just need to be honest with your kids. Explain the dangers. Show them what’s okay and safe. As the parent you need to monitor every thing they do, online and off. We live in a scary world!

  54. Angella says:
  55. We’ve been using MouseMail for a week or so and like it so far. My daughter is 10, and I think that’s a good age. She also has a pay-as-you-go cell phone.

  56. Katherine G. says:

    My kids will not be getting a cell phone until they have a drivers license.

  57. This scares me! My son is only 11 months and I’m scared of how to handle this when he’s older. Plus, my job revolves around the internet so I always have my laptop or iPhone on me… so it’ll likely be a tough issue.

  58. My 14-yeqr-old still doesn’t have his own phone. But I probably would have been OK with him having one at age 13. We’re working on getting him one now. I especially like the ones that have the GPS feature that can tell me at all times where he is. He does have Facebook and we require him to give up his password and friend us so we can monitor his social interactions at any time. It’s amazing what kids put on their Facebook walls and what they message each other on Facebook!

  59. Very cool program!

  60. Whitney B says:

    i don’t have any kids but I agree with many others here that kids shouldn’t need
    a cell phone until they are old enough to stay by themselves –

  61. Whitney B says:
  62. Jeannett says:

    I am definitley going to check into this for my five year old!

  63. the age is flexible. Until they are traveling on their own they don’t need one. They are times when I give a phone (not their property), when they are on their own.

  64. Carolsue says:

    Kids need to be in an area where they are visible by an adult when using the computer. I like that a parent can control the features their child uses. Games are great, but at an appropriate time (and for a reasonable amount of time as well).

  65. Carolsue says:

    I forgot to say that I think age 10 is a good time for an e-mail and cell phone!

    I have posted this on my blog.
    http://carolsbloggys.blogspot.com/p/blogher-and-mousemail.html

  66. Becky Horn says:

    I dont believe there is an ideal age, more or less an ideal maturity level. I have one son who is 14 and very mature with lots of friends, and one who is 13 very keep to himself, immature and no friends. I see no point in giving a cell phone to the 13 yr old as it will just go to waste, however my 14 yr old you cant keep him off of it. I tell my kids I will provide them with a cellphone but rules are rules and they get broken the cell phone will be taken away.
    sweokgrl@gmail.com

  67. Becky Horn says:
  68. Patricia Treskovich says:

    useful for samll children none here now

  69. Patricia Treskovich says:
  70. Mary M. says:

    I think as long as they are watched, the computer could be a safe place for them to be but my kids did not have that opportunity because computers were not around then.

    marybug2@yahoo.com

  71. Mary M. says:
  72. Patricia says:

    I think email is good for the 10 and up. Email at this point should only be to family and friends. Email can be a good teaching tool but we need to be the Teacher!

  73. I will make sure that my kids are aware of the dangers that are out there, so they can always keep on guard. Of course, I wouldn’t give them free access to the computer until they are very much ready and prepared for that kind of responsibility. I think it depends on the child.

    gina.m.maddox (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  74. tweet-http://twitter.com/#!/CrazyItalian0/status/100369546636046336
    gina.m.maddox (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  75. melissa burns says:

    i think 10-11 yrs old is the right age for a simple cell phone, doesn’t stop my 7 yr old asking for one though:)

  76. This is a tough one… I definitely like your positives on Mousemail andmight try that when the time comes. For now, we keep pretty close tabs on hotmail, FB, etc. with our kiddos, making sure they have the correct privacy setting, etc.

  77. My daughter received her cell phone on her 13th birthday. As she has started high school sports, it’s easier for me to know when to pick her up, etc. Texting overrides email any day. Facebook started this summer. I didn’t think I would start at 13 for her, but her youth pastor and coaches use it as THE way to get the word out.

  78. I think a cell phone that only calls mom & dad is a good idea for a kid who goes over to friends houses to play. So, about middle school, early high school.

  79. Wow. What an interesting idea…. It sounds like a great way to get kids started on email and teach them about using technology responsibly.

  80. I think this is a great concept, and love that you can create rules to fit your families needs!

  81. Jaclyn Reynolds says:

    For my kids, they are with us all the time with homeschooling so we don’t have a use for cell phones. They don’t have their own email addresses yet either. They are into youtube, so I’ve had to set rules and stick with them.

  82. nanjhall says:

    Wow, my idea of an ideal age to introduce cell phones sure doesn’t go over with the kids today:) I don’t have a big of problem with email as I can monitor that.

  83. Roxie A. says:

    It’s so difficult to control the cyber world for your children! It’s so important to verbally discuss the importance of safety on the net. The same goes for cell phones. Now cell phones are mini computers with internet. I believe that a child should not have a smart phone until late teens.

    anglesmr {at} gmail {dot} com

  84. i think theres no good way to teach kids about technology.. but I am teaching them from a young age by showing them how to use my technology.. and I believe that theres no right age to get your kids there own gadgets, all kids are different and it depends on their own maturity levels.

  85. I don’t think cell phones are needed until they’ll be out alone with friends. Not quite sure at what age I’d allow my kids to do that :)

  86. Shelley Mitchell says:

    I work in IT so I have programs that monitor there usage, sites they go to, etc. I don’t about age I think it’s up to the parents to make sure they monitor what they are doing at any age.

    msjem2001 at yahoo dot com

  87. Jeanette Huston says:

    The age for technology is 16 and kids should always be monotored and filtered.

    Jeanette Huston
    sweepstakesjeanie@yahoo.com

  88. Jeanette Huston says:
  89. cute idea but you still need to be very cautious with your children nowadays
    pedidentalasst at yahoo dot com

  90. Daniel M says:

    looks way safer than just a regular isp email addy