A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this website.
The site provides a safe, friendly environment for kids to socialize. Sharing and being helpful are encouraged. Veteran users can apply to be "Jr. CyBearGuides," who help new users get acquainted with the virtual world and answer their questions. On the downside, the site places a lot of emphasis on fashion and shopping -- especially for Build-A-Bear products.
Products & Purchases
To access the site's full array of features, users must own a Build-A-Bear. There are links to the Build-A-Bear product site, as well as ads for other websites. Also, kids can collect virtual money and use it to buy clothing, accessories, etc. within the game.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this friendly virtual world was created by the Build-A-Bear Workshop, which sells customizable bears and other stuffed animals online and in stores. Certain site features are restricted to visitors who own a Build-A-Bear toy (which comes with a code) -- this may frustrate kids and prompt them to ask for one. Otherwise, the site is a safe and pleasant place for kids to play online.
Is It Any Good?
Kids who've bought a Build-A-Bear stuffed animal will get the most out of BEARVILLE. The site's centerpiece is a virtual world that allows visitors to bring their furry friends along for games and other activities. Any kid who registers can visit the virtual world, but without a toy, they won't have access to the full range of activities. Still, there's a lot to do on this colorful site. One highlight is the Friendship Forest Photo Safari -- point and click to capture photos of animals as they fly or scurry across the lush landscape, and check out the resulting photo album. In addition to a slew of games, there's video content, such as the web series "Craftshop," which teaches kids how to make fun fashions on the cheap. Despite the ever-present prompts to buy Bearville gear, this bustling world does a good job keeping kids engaged -- and safe.
Online interaction: Kids can "friend" other users and trade items. There are two chat options: safe chat, which limits users to a pre-approved list of common phrases, and open filtered chat, which checks chat against a dictionary of approved words. (Parents can also turn chat off entirely.)
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.