A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Miss O and Friends -- a long-running online social space for girls with tons of content and opportunities to submit and publish writing -- now has a more mature, commercial, and celebrity-focused orientation. The front page features a constant infotainment video feed that plays side-by-side with ads for cars, cell phones, slippers, and Walmart. Paid memberships are no longer available, and free memberships are now separated into Level 1, for girls under 13 who can't create profiles unless they get parent permission via email, and Level 2, or the "Miss O Club": full site access for girls 13 and up. A top banner logo claims the site is COPPA-compliant and CARU-certified.
What's it about?
Games, polls, quizzes, "Write On!" books, contests, and a store remain from the original site, whereas other stuff such as cooking and crafts have been buried deeper, and neat new content such as Girl of the Moment and the Scoop newsletter have been added. The Girl2Girl Wall appears pretty active mostly with 10- to 18-year-olds. The Miss O store offers up books, backpacks, and beauty products such as shampoo and hair dryers. A virtual world, which used to be a fairly large part of the site, doesn't exist anymore.
Is it any good?
MISS O AND FRIENDS screams Teen Beat, online version. The presentation and site navigation will entertain and engage finicky tweens, perhaps precisely because the presentation is so busy and scattered. The site's voice and tone are welcoming and hip without being snobby or clubby, all the way from headlines down to user instructions. Stuff available to anyone who logs in (Level 1) includes tons of OK games, polls, and quizzes, a huge archive of submissions from years past, and a pause-able Watchmojo.com feed with Selena Gomez, The Wanted, and One Direction videos -- some of which show kissing, dance club scenes, pictures of Playboy bunnies, and adult-level magazine covers -- along with some occasional how-to clips about cutting open fruits and vegetables.
Miss O Club (Level 2) includes the ability to win prizes, write in a "secret" diary, submit a story for the next Miss O book, upload anonymous profile photos, and write and comment for the Scoop newsletter; Kids Counsel and internship opportunities; and tons more. The site's tag line, "By girls, for girls," masks how carefully submissions are screened and moderated. Although the site is weighed down with music videos, ads, and always-below-the-fold content, the overall experience of Miss O is positive, healthy, fun, and entertaining with a little educational and empowerment thrown in for good measure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what their daughters want to be when they grow up and whether the site makes them feel as if they can be a success in life. The site emphasizes writing and the possibility of being published in a book. Does that make you want to do creative writing on your own time?
How do you feel about chatting with friends or playing them online as opposed to visiting them in real life? Does it make you feel like you could say or do things you wouldn't say or do in real life? Or do you treat your friends the same online as you do when you're face-to-face?
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