- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

Juliette Brindak has given girls a place to hang out with some peers and illustrated pals. The 16-year-old entrepreneur began sketching some “cool girls” when she was just 10 years old. With the help of her family and those initial designs, she developed a cyber-world of inspiration.

The site caters to the female tween and offers a variety of multimedia activities that blend entertainment with learning.

Miss O and Friends

Site address: www.missoandfriends.com

Creator: The HD Group, LLC, located in Old Greenwich, Conn., maintains the site.

Creator quotable: “We feel the success we are having with Miss O and Friends is because we are truly the real thing — not something created by adults who think they know what young girls want, but created by real girls for girls,” Juliette says. “When girls experience Miss O and Friends they tell us they believe in who and what we are.”

Word from the Webwise: Miss O and Friends introduces the characters of Miss O, Juliette, Harlie, Isabella and Justine, who help girls through the challenges of life while giving them a safe place to hang out on the Internet.

Through plenty of pages peppered with bright colors and active icons enhanced with techno dance tracks, the site has the hip chicks explaining and listening to their audience via colorful presentations and easy-to-understand text.

Visitors can click on individual characters to learn about their background and hobbies (many of which are tied to on-screen activities) or click on the main sections of Games, Create, Explore, ‘Zine and Club.

Each section concentrates on sharing ideas, creativity and developing an online community while keeping the core audience entertained.

The most robust, ‘Zine, mixes visitor-submitted reviews, stories and opinions with staff-generated movie and music news, shopping tips, travel options, horoscopes and even counseling (with the help of elementary school psychologist Marion Swanson).

Other section highlights include brain-stimulating challenges such as printable crosswords, 100-piece on-screen jigsaw puzzles and a slick version of word searches; a detailed simulation of Dress Me Up that offers “click and assemble” fashion designs on a Miss O model; and a virtual tour of some historical buildings and structures around the world.

Those who join the Club by registering with the site get online space to create a secret diary, design a virtual scrapbook and play games to earn points and unlock more content.

Don’t miss: Of all the interactives I expected to find on a “girl-friendly” site, a Chinese calligraphy creator was not one of them. Residing in the Explore section, the simulation lets junior artists choose a background, place and scale art elements, and integrate some ancient symbols (translations are placed underneath them) on a page that can be e-mailed to friends or submitted to the site for others to appreciate.

Family activity: Under ‘Zine, girls can learn how to make tie-dye shirts and designer mirrors and even develop their own ‘zine. Or, they can stop by Create and the Cook’in Time area to find a selection of tasty recipes.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Miss O and Friends is a business, being labeled by creators as a “lifestyle brand,” so young girls eventually could be bombarded with Miss O merchandise. Parents should keep an eye on the site’s evolution to see if it continues to expand as a place that intelligently inspires girls or if it becomes a disguised sales portal for licensed jewelry, footwear, cosmetics, apparel and stationery.

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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