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Site Seer: Chicks get hip to the Web

January 15, 1998
Web posted at: 1:46 p.m. EST (1846 GMT)

By Donna Freydkin
Special to CNN Interactive

(CNN) -- Even before it became the mantra of the Spice Girls, girl power was alive and thriving on the World Wide Web.

Little wonder, given the potential payoff of attracting women to the Internet and keeping them plugged in. Forrester Research predicts that by 2000, more than 18 million women will be online, up from 5 million in 1996. And like many things, it helps to grab their interest while they're young.

Among the many trendy sites aimed at younger and older teen-age girls, most feature the requisite chat rooms and advice columnists. After all, who didn't need all the help they could get during those formative and trying teen-age years?

Most of the sites are easy to navigate and are written in a conversational tone that appeals to young users. A few of the standout sites boast entertaining or educational features seldom found anywhere else.

KidPub

KidPub

Coolest feature: Kids can publish their stories or poems.

Originally started as a creative outlet for a 9-year-old daughter, KidPub has grown into an online publishing house featuring more than 17,000 stories written by children across the globe. Aside from grammar or spelling corrections, the publisher does not edit or change the stories. Youngsters submit them by filling out an online form, and can even send in digital pictures of themselves to be posted with their writing. The stories usually appear on the site after three days. Kids also can also add paragraphs to a collaborative, ongoing story. The site boasts very simple navigation and loads quickly.

American Girls Club

Coolest feature: Recreational ideas to keep young girls busy.

With its friendly feel and small-town theme, the kind and gentle American Girls Club site reminds me of Colonial America -- and is great entertainment for young girls. Six girls from different periods in U.S. history offer a peak at the past, with ideas for dances, games and other fun. Click on any of the girls' names and you can get tips on standing up straight, growing spring blossoms, making peanut candy or converting holiday greeting cards into puppets. Girls can find out what significant events happened the day they were born, submit an original drawing to be displayed on the site or submit answers to a weekly question.

Purple Moon

Purple Moon

Coolest feature: Users can create their own Web pages.

Purple Moon stands out as the best entertainment site I found for pre-teen girls! It has an eye-catching design and easy navigation and seeks to develop a tight sense of community. Among other things, girls can collect treasures, create their own pages and send and receive postcards. With the atmosphere of a World Wide Web clubhouse, the site clearly appeals to young girls by allowing them to take part in online adventures with Purple Moon characters and contribute their own ideas to the ongoing characters' plots. The site is part of Purple Moon, a new entertainment company dedicated to providing meaningful entertainment experiences for girls ages 8-12.

SmartGirl

Coolest feature: Write and post your most embarrassing experiences, and read those of others.

Although this Web site is still under construction, it already offers a number of appealing features. Girls can read reviews of movies, books, Web sites and videos and post their own. If your heart beats fast for that certain cutie in your math class, post the best love letter you've ever written him, or ask Arielle, the resident advice columnist, to shed light on your romantic questions.

The site promises bulletin boards in the near future, but in the meantime, users can take part in surveys on any number of topics. The site is simple to navigate, easy on the eyes and loads fairly quickly. Founded by Harvard graduate Isabel Walcott, SmartGirl touts itself as the site for "girls who know how to decide for themselves what they want." A word of caution: Although the site costs nothing, it does have a disclaimer that it stays in business by selling research, excluding names and addresses. Judging by the site's content, it's geared toward older teens.

Cyberteens

Cyberteens

Coolest feature: Submit and listen to kids' original musical scores.

Aspiring artists and writers can submit their original works to a contest to be judged for originality and impact. Finalist entries will be published and voted on through mid-May 1998. In the Cyberteens art gallery, users can submit original creations to be displayed. Moviegoers can read and discuss the movie reviews written by 13-year-old Arkansas reporter Vivian Rose, while music aficionados can listen to original compositions submitted by young composers. Aspiring musicians can even send in their own original music in MIDI format. The site offers online chat rooms where you can read others' thoughts or share your own.

Published by California's Mountain Lake , Cyberteens was launched in August 1995 with the goal of creating and promoting the worldwide youth community. Indeed, the site provides teens with an attractive online outlet to express their thoughts and creative ideas. The navigation is somewhat convoluted, but the content is worth the confusion.

Girl Tech

Coolest feature: Girls can fill in the blanks in a prewritten letter, which can be translated into one of four languages and sent to a friend.

The Girl Tech Web site is part of the technology company founded in 1995 by Janese Swanson. With its hip design and simple navigation, the site is sure to appeal to many teen-age girls. The Web site identifies its mission as encouraging girls to be tech-savvy by creating products and services just for them. The site is divided into five areas: search engine, chat area, profile of women, games section, sports and an information section on research and news pertaining to young girls.

If I were still roaming the halls of middle school and junior high, I would love this site. It hits on many of the areas that directly impact teen lives. Girls can ask for advice, send an electronic flower to a friend, play educational games, learn new words with the help of Ms. Wordsmith, submit their own unique inventions and read profiles of historically significant women.

Best of all, language no longer has to be a barrier when it comes to communicating with international friends. Fill in certain blanks in a prewritten letter, and the entire form will be translated into one of four languages and sent to a friend. Although the form is fairly simple and does not allow for much detail, it gets the job done.

Troom

Troom

Cool feature: A serialized shockwave comic book, with a new chapter every month.

A fairly unremarkable site affiliated with Tampax Tampons, Troom covers a number of issues of interest to young women. The site features bulletin boards and music reviews, allows users to read excerpts from a virtual diary and offers serious, practical advice on topics affecting teen-age girls, such as saying "yes" to sports and combating shyness. The advice is fairly serious, thorough and practical.

Cybergrrl

Aimed at an older crowd, Cybergrrl lacks many of the whiz-bang interactive features found on other sites. Through its message boards, chat rooms and weekly surveys, the site tries to build a sense of community. What I enjoyed most, however, were its sometimes poignant and often entertaining Guides to Life, in which contributors detail their own experiences with everything from dating to being an artist.

The site also features a cultural companion, designed to inform users heading out on an overseas business trip about their destination country's customs. The search engine is easy to use, but the information retrieved is sparse at best. I searched for Germany's food customs, and ended up with two search results, one of which said: "Enjoy getting to know your German associates during a business luncheon, you'll get down to business following the meal." I did not find the information particularly helpful or insightful. Users can also read reviews of books written by female authors, or post their own reviews.

gURL

Coolest feature: A testosterone take on that traditional feminine game -- paper dolls.

Divided into five main areas, the site's features include amusing comics, the resident advice columnist and a gallery of art submitted by girls. Where else can you dress a male paper doll and have your outfit analyzed by associate editor Heather McDonald and self-described sensitive male Bryan? My doll was described as having "bought his entire outfit at the college center during freshman orientation week," and I was warned that he lacked a "strong self identity."

Users can read a witty tale about a woman's physical attributes, or submit to a fantasy makeover by sending in a closeup photo and a leaving yourself at the mercy of editor Rebecca Odes. Editors Odes and Esther Drill study telecommunications at New York University, and are a testament to the creative outlets open to interested and dedicated females. And for some rather hair-raising entertainment, check out the editors' body hair project. The site is aimed at girls 14 and older.

 
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