- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2002

The days of teen-agers living with phones surgically attached to their ears have been modified now many teens live with keyboards mysteriously growing out of their hands. Yes, the computer generation continues to thrive, spending a major amount of time communicating and interacting via the World Wide Web.

One online community, created a year ago by a company known for its ability to assemble information, hopes to appeal to that demographic by offering plenty of opportunities to share opinions, show off artistic efforts and learn about the world around them.

Brainevent.com

Site address: www.brainevent.com

Creator:

Brainevent.com came to life through the efforts of Knowledge Unlimited Inc., based in Madison, Wis. Founded in 1983, Knowledge Unlimited is an educational publishing company that produces the NewsCurrents weekly-events discussion program and Zino Press children's books as well as teaching kits, poster sets and other supplemental materials for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site to give teen-agers and young people a voice and to build a vibrant community. Brainevent.com isn't just another chat room. It's a place that respects young people and takes them seriously as writers and thinkers. Teen-agers have so much to contribute Brainevent.com gives them a forum," says Liza DiPrima, editor in chief for Brainevent.com.

Word from the Webwise:

With a simple click of the mouse, the planet has grown much smaller. Brainevent.com reinforces that reality with a Web site designed for 11- to 18-year-olds looking for a way to express themselves.

A bit of a clunky design greets first-time visitors. Silly animations such as a moving grasshopper to illustrate one girl's experience with an early-morning biology class highlight site updates in the center of the screen, while a sea of sections rises on the left side.

Most of these sections display an online community in action. The extensive Journals section, for example, provides weekly updates, primarily by female writers around the United States, focusing on the trials and tribulations of growing up. Amy's Senioritis specifically chronicles the rantings of a college freshman from the University of North Texas.

A second tier of interaction can be found under sections such as Sound Off and Hot Topic, which tempt registered visitors to debate and respond to issues in today's complicated society. In addition, a host of polls and quizzes test knowledge and show trends.

While on the subject of registration, to interact in any of the areas, teens must first establish a password and user name visitors younger than 13 must have their parents give their written approval on a form that can be mailed or faxed. Throughout the site, the editors clearly explain the privacy policy and terms of use on these matters.

The third tier of information has adult writers covering various areas they believe interest teen-agers. Besides producing an EcoWatch section with articles on ways to save electricity and advice on being a "cruelty free consumer," the writers also have found examples of the new generation making a difference, as in the case of 13-year-old Nicki Mendicino, a Pennsylvania girl who created a Web site in honor of war veterans, POWs and MIAs.

The site really tries to be a one-stop shop for all teens; a psychologist and general practitioner are available to answer questions ranging from an inquiry about the effect of birth control pills on the skin to one from a 14-year-old girl wondering about proper kissing techniques to another about the dilemma of friendship vs. relationship.

A nice feature allows visitors to offer comments on anything presented. These positive or critical notes appear on the right side of the screen and add another layer of interactivity.

Ease of use:

I really dislike the frame setup on the site; it clutters rather than enhances the design. Other than that annoyance, the site can be viewed by any newer browser, needs no plug-ins and works well as a repository of memories.

Don't miss:

The Wacky Week in History section is guaranteed to pique one's interest with a look at events and people that definitely fit into the "believe it or not" category. In addition to a tribute to the man behind Rocky and Bullwinkle, Jay Ward, visitors will find information about the life of Billy Carter (the beer-promoting brother of the former president), the truth behind the corn flake, and why Ivan IV, the one-time czar of Russia, was so terrible.

Family activity:

Teens can take some of the topics brought up in the site from human cloning to the merits of reality television to the dinner table for more lively discussions.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Even the most well-thought-out plan for an online community for young adults can leave room for the occasional creep to register as a teen and cause problems. Brainevent.com tries to minimize this with plenty of privacy tips, "safe surfing" information and editor filters. Parents, however, still should be aware of what their child is doing on the Internet, especially in any interactive environment.

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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