KidZui is launching a series of social networking features for its kid-safe internet browsing software. Designed for kids ages three to 12, KidZui is a web portal for kids that is trying to draw an audience by adopting the same kind of features that have made Facebook popular.

Kidzui online services include links to more than 1.5 million parent- and teacher-approved web sites, games, pictures and videos. And now, when kids log in, they can see a live mini-feed with status updates from their friends, although all friend requests have to be approved by parents.

When sending status updates, kids can choose from a menu of moods or activities, such as “doing homework” or “energetic.”  And they can create their own Zui avatars, or animated characters, to use when communicating with each other. Instead of “poking” others as on Facebook, they “ping” each other.

The move to incorporate social networking into kids’ sites is becoming common. Glubble announced a couple of weeks ago that it has built social networking into its web-safe browser. Zookazoo, launched earlier this year, is also a kids’ game site with social networking features.

In general, these sites are like looking at the world through a kid’s eyes. The KidZui site has a new political page, where children can befriend the presidential and vice presidential candidates. So far, Barack Obama has more friends than John McCain.

“We designed this to be like MySpace and Facebook but in a way that works for kids,” said Cliff Boro, chief executive of KidZui.

The site tries to offer a balance of entertainment, education and community. On the education front, the company is launching Homework Helper, a teacher-designed system that gives kids access to a range of subjects from kindergarten to eight grade.

KidZui has about twice as much traffic as Glubble, according to Compete.com. But it has a long way to go before it gets anywhere near the traffic of the more game-oriented Club Penguin, Disney’s site for kids. The company also competes with Ask Kids, NetNanny, Cyber Patrol and Cybersitter, which filter out adult-oriented sites.

It will be interesting to see if the redesign helps KidZui. The company originally launched a subscription site in March but made it free in June to reach a wider audience. It shifted to a model where it makes money off ads for the free visitors. The company still offers a subscription of $4.95 a month for enhanced online reports for parents, Homework Helper, and other extras. It also has a virtual goods model, where kids can earn points if they discover new sites within the KidZui universe. They can use those points to buy a variety of virtual goods for their avatars.

To date, users have rated two million pieces of content and shared a million pieces of content. Kids use the site an average of three times a week. KidZui is backed by Maveron, Emergence Capital Partners and First Round Capital. It has raised $10 million in funding since 2006.