Tocomail for Gmail puts parents in control of teens' email

Tocomail for Gmail screenshot

Tocomail for Gmail is a kid-friendly Gmail client designed specifically to make emailing a simpler and safer experience so that parents don't have to worry. The vibrant, colorful UI and fun tools is sure to grab the attention of young ones while the robust control over who they can communicate with is sure to give parents peace of mind. The app is free and includes in-app purchases.

Of course, using Tocomail requires a Google account with an active Gmail account attached to it. When you're logged in, your first impression is probably that the app looks incredibly childish. However given its target demographic, that's a compliment.

Tocomail for Gmail screenshot

If you search Tocomail in the App Store, you may notice a very similar app is available: Tocomail - Safe Email for Kids. What's the difference? Apparently, that app is actually for even younger kids, while Tocomail for Gmail is geared more toward older kids and teenagers. It's probably a bit unnecessary for teenagers, so I imagine the differences between the two are comparable to a kids' meal and a big kids' meal at a fast food restaurant.

The color scheme of the inbox (and the entire app) is a mix of bright blue and to my mediocre eye either a yellow or very light green. Emails are organized reverse chronologically and categorized as such. Everything about Tocomail is dead simple to use. The button on the top right composes a new message and the top left opens all your contacts listed on the left as well as additional app settings - more on that later.

The Compose window features a To line, Subject line and text box to type your message and nothing more. The paper clip icon that usually attaches a file instead can add a photo from your camera or gallery, but the app also has a built-in drawing feature with an extensive range of tools and colors for kids to get creative drawing a picture to attach to an email.

Tocomail for Gmail screenshot

Where parents get control is in the Settings. Here is a mail lock to restrict access to email using a 4-digit PIN that either parents or children choose to set, or more importantly is the Parents Settings section. This is where the app enables Safe, General and Blocked contact lists. It also adds a Quarantine box to the app where Tocomail places potentially unsafe emails for approval or rejection.

These controls come at a cost though and it's unfortunately not a small one. The Parents Settings is available through the app as an in-app purchase for US$9.99. Yes, ten bucks to keep those pesky teens of yours in line online.

Tocomail for Gmail screenshot

Tocomail for Gmail is a smooth app with good performance, a user friendly design and a decent set of features to ensure that email use among kids and teens doesn't get out of hand.

My problem with it though is that it really shouldn't be aiming at teens. Teenagers, generally kids with ages ranging from 13 to 17, don't want to feel like children that can't maintain a credible online presence. The bright blues and yellows in Tocomail and the strict control over email doesn't seem appropriate for kids in high school and very shortly starting college. It's babyish. Besides, email isn't hip anymore anyway; monitoring your teen's social network profiles is probably more beneficial.

Despite all this, if Tocomail for Gmail's motives match yours, it does work well and is worth a download for either iPhone or iPad.