A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this personalized book- and video-creation site has taken several safety precautions and says it's COPPA-compliant. Parents are supposed to register for a family account -- if you enter an age under 13, you're told you're ineligible. (Kids could, however, pretend they're a parent when registering to gain full access.) Users must enter a password every time they change the parental controls, which adults can use to keep kids from emailing site-created content or posting it on Facebook. Younger kids will get a huge kick out of seeing themselves in stories, so, if you're up for a monthly fee, this could be worth it.
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What's it about?
STORYBOTS, created by the brothers behind holiday ecard developer JibJab.com, lets users create books and videos featuring their images and names. The site also features learning-based music videos and activity downloads, including coloring pages, recipes, craft projects, word searches, and mazes. You upload a photograph of your face, which is inserted atop a StoryBot or other character's body -- this version of you then will star in videos and stories. Users can check out a chunk of the site for free; a family subscription that includes unlimited access to videos, books, downloadable video songs, and activity sheets is $4.99 a month, $4.49 for a six-month subscription, or $3.49 for 12 months.
Is it any good?
StoryBots' concept is cute: Let kids (and adults) easily create videos and ebooks that feature their images. The process is simple; click on a story, and upload a photo. The graphics are modern and charming, and the variety of quirky songs (such as "Big Brown Boogieing Bear") will grab kids' interest.
However, there's a catch. Without a paid membership, kids won't be able to access the bulk of the site's content. Users can only customize a handful of the site's 25 videos for free, and only one of StoryBots' 36 books is available without a paid subscription. With parental approval, kids can share videos on Facebook or email them to a friend. But you can't currently save finished ebooks to your desktop or create ones with original content. Without additional design and saving options, kids may not really want to use the site repeatedly. If you're willing to pay, StoryBots can be a really fun diversion with a bit of learning thrown in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss which elements are most important when telling a story. Do you always need a beginning, middle, and end? What other things do you need to mention for a story to make sense?
Have your child tell a story to you verbally, and then write it down. How do the versions differ?
StoryBots lets you insert yourself into stories in a fun, safe way. But sharing your picture on some sites may not be a good idea. How can your child tell the difference between a site on which it's OK to post photos and sites that might show those images to strangers?
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