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The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What 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.
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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.)
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