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My Secret Circle – Review and Giveaway

secret_circleMy Secret Circle, a new social networking world for girls, was created with internet safety in mind. The only way to access this secret world is with a USB access key.  Once you have the access key, you can set up your profile and initiate a unique charm code to print out exchange with your friends.  With the charm code you give them and an access key of their own, your friends can communicate with you in your very own secret online world.

My Secret Circle is targeted to girls ages 8-12 who want to communicate with their real friends online but who may not have the judgement to stay away from many online dangers.  The access key contains an embedded code that brings up the private My Secret Circle browser without the need for credit cards, logins, or personal information.

Senario sent me a BFF pack of My Secret Circle, which includes two online access keys, to review.  After reading about this product I was really excited to try it out.  I wish I had an 8-year-old girl around to help me test it, but instead I just had to pretend (which really wasn’t so hard because I watch a LOT of Hannah Montana).

With all of my excitement to get started, I went to tear into the package – which of course was plastic and rather difficult to get into.  Once I cut through the first layer of plastic, there was another layer to cut through before I could get to my access key.  I finally got my access key out and plugged it into my USB port on my computer.  It started loading up right away, but then told me I needed to restart my computer and update my Flash player.  Once all of that was done, My Secret Circle was up and running.  I would definitely recommend parental supervision to get going the first time, but after that it was a snap.

When My Secret Circle starts up, it asks you to create a password and then prompts you to write it down on your instruction manual so you don’t lose it.  Then it takes you to the Options page where you can use the Diva Designer to create your avatar using different hair styles, props, clothing, etc.  You can also fill in your name and other information such as your favorite TV show, movie, and such.

From there, you can click to go to your journal, im, photos, games, or chat.  You can also go to your “All About Me” page by clicking in the upper left-hand corner to see your recent activity and your friends’ activity.  The chat section requires the use of the My Secret Circle voice-chat headset, but all of the other options were available.

One of the features I really liked was that when you save a journal entry it asks you if you would like that entry to be public or private.  I thought this was great because every tween girl has a few secrets she doesn’t want to share with even her closest friends.  The private feature allows them to have a place ot write down their secrets without anyone else having access to it.

My biggest disapointment was that I couldn’t get any photos to upload.  I tried several different photos, including different sizes, and could not get any of them to work.  Once photos are uploaded, you are supposed to be able to create albums and slideshows, add text and graphics, use them in your journal entries, and use them for some of the games.  I really hope that this was just a fluke because I think the photo features would make the whole thing a lot more fun.

Overall, I think this is a great product.  I think the BFF pack would be a perfect birthday present for a tween girl.  Aside from the problem with uploading photos, this seems like a really fun place for girls to hang out with their friends.  I like that it is a one-time purchase with no online subscription fees.  I think it a great way for kids to share photos and other information securely without the wrong person intercepting it.  I would feel very safe letting my kids communicate with their friends on My Secret Circle (when they’re a little bit older anyway).

Do you know any tween girls that would love to get online and hang out with their friends?  I hope so because the lovely people at Scenario are letting me give one My Secret Circle online access key (a $19.99 value) out to one of my lucky readers!  Enter to win by completing one or all of the steps below:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me who you would give the My Secret Circle access key to if you win.
  2. Tweet about the giveaway on Twitter and leave a link to that tweet in a comment on this post.
  3. Subscribe via e-mail or RSS feed and leave a comment on this post saying you did so.

You MUST leave a comment for each contest entry, otherwise it will be disqualified.  Any entries that do not meet the qualifications above will be deleted prior to choosing a winner.  Entries will close at 10:00 p.m. Central on Monday, July 20, 2009.  Winner will be chosen via based on the total number of entries and will be notified by e-mail.

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Sometimes I Forget How Small He Still Is


Mornings have been a struggle lately. We go back and forth with this, but lately it seems to be much harder than usual. Zach just doesn’t like to get up. Once he’s up, he doesn’t like to get dressed. Once he’s dressed, he doesn’t want to leave. When we finally make it to day care, he doesn’t want to get out of the car. I always get some resistance from him, but today was really hard.

This morning it took nearly 30 minutes just to get him out of bed.  Evie was being clingy so I only had one hand to work with, and couldn’t do much but pester him to get up.  Once he was finally up and we went through the whole getting dressed process he told me he didn’t want to go to day care.  We had our usual talk about how he has to go to day care so Mommy and Daddy can work, etc. but he still wasn’t budging.  Finally the real issue came out.

“K told me he doesn’t want to play with me any more,” he says with the saddest face I’ve ever seen.  “He says I’m not a nice friend and he won’t play with me.”

My heart totally sank.

I heard a little of this going on the week before but dismissed it thinking it would all blow over but apparently it stuck with him.  My mama bear instincts wanted to just sweep him up, give him a big hug, and tell him it would all be all right (and to tell K that he was a big meanie).  But, my parenting instincts told me that this was a teaching moment and I needed to find just the right words to teach him how to deal with people that hurt his feelings.


I did give him a big hug and raced through what I should say in my head.  I explained to him that sometimes even your friends will say things that hurt your feelings.  Sometimes they are just mad and don’t really mean it, but sometimes they do it because you have done something that hurt their feelings first.  I suggested to him that if K does this again, maybe he could just go play with someone else for a while until K is ready to play with him again.  We talked a little about how he needed to make sure he was being a nice friend as well so his friends would want to play with him.  And of course, if they can’t solve it themselves then he can always ask a grown-up to help.  I want him to learn how to deal with things like this on his own, because God knows this won’t be the last conflict that comes along.  This is so minor compared to the things he’ll have to deal with in the future.

The hard part is that K is the closest one to Zach’s age at day care.  The other kids are quite a bit younger, which is why Zach gravitates toward K most of the time.  It is a small home day care, so there aren’t a lot of options.  When they’re both happy they have a great time together.  But, K plays more violently, obviously watches some more grown-up things on TV, and has the attitude to go with it.  Even though he’s just a few months older than Zach, he definitely seems much older and Zach looks up to him in a way.  Zach, however, is the kid that wants to play the tough guy but is really quite sensitive underneath.  He was totally crushed that K didn’t want to play with him.

I’m guessing that this whole thing was weighing on him all weekend.  He had kind of a rough weekend overall and I feel bad that I didn’t pick up on it and ask him what was going on.  I just assumed he was being obstinate on purpose.  We grow up in this society that tells us that boys are tough and don’t have feelings but seeing my 3-year-old boy so distraught over the snub of a friend brought me back to reality real quick.  I’m just as guilty as anybody else of forgetting boys have feelings too (just ask my husband).

Zach is growing up so fast.  He’ll be four years old next month.  He wants to be so independent.  Most days I look at him and I see this big boy that can do nearly anything he puts his mind to.  Other days, like today, I look at him and see the tiny little baby I gave birth to and I want to hold in my arms and keep him there forever.  That’s the only place I can truly protect him.

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