What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this site begins with a kid adopting a virtual pet and collecting the local currency (Neopoints) to take care of him. The site promotes making and spending money -- from playing games to earn Neopoints to visiting the online story to buy real-life T-shirts, stickers, the Neopets magazine, and plush toys. Although the games cover everything from arcade action to anagrams, some feature gambling and betting. Kids can buy a Neopian lottery ticket and buy and sell virtual stocks. All bulletin boards are monitored and kids have to be 13 to post and are encouraged to be creative by submitting stories and drawings. The boards do have scammers wanting to hack into your account, so parents should talk to kids about never clicking on a personal URL in a board. There are a few banner ads, and Neopet owners can play games sponsored by corporations such as General Mills.
What's it about?
In NEOPETS.COM's online world, Neopia, players explore a variety of landscapes, which offer games and curious shops where you can "purchase" a magical potion, a virtual snack, or a book to read to your pet. The more pets read, the smarter they become, which is important in the pet's ever-changing statistical summary of abilities, strength, health, and other attributes. Neopets require regular feeding. To purchase food -- or anything else -- you must gain Neopoints. To build up a bank of Neopoints, pet owners play games. You can also apply for an online "job," which usually involves a scavenger hunt to purchase more items from other players. Another way to scrape up points is to auction unnecessary items or place them in your online store. More mature players might invest in the Neopian stock market. Among Neopia's many participatory options are free clubs ("guilds") that have their own discussions, giveaways, and player hints. You can also write stories for the newsletter, submit drawings, work on your pet's Web page, or post on the NeoBoards.
Is it any good?
Kids can get frustrated that they have to figure things out from other players. For example, you may learn on the boards that when the giant ice serpent sleeps the brave may sneak in and steal an item of his treasure. Also, there are players who scam other players out of their Neopoints and magical items, but a few third-party sites are combating this scourge.
On the positive side, messages posted on the boards are screened before they're posted, and those who break any rules will have their accounts frozen. Those younger than 13 aren't allowed to access the boards unless they've sent in parental permission.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about taking care of a pet. What's more important to give a pet -- a new coat or love and attention?
Parents can also talk to their kids about the dangers of obsessing about money and gambling. What does it mean to gamble?