What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Internet safety is of little concern here, since there's no way for members to chat or contact each other. Upon sign-up -- which kids under 12 must have approved by an adult -- each member is given one free online horse; to add more horses, however, members must purchase Bella Sara trading cards ($2.50 a pack; there are links to retailers that sell them). And only by adding horses can members earn horseshoes, the Bella Sara currency that allows them to "buy" items to furnish their online cottages.
What's it about?
BELLASARA.COM is a virtual world where grade-schoolers and tweens can learn about horses and the joys of owning and caring for them (virtual ones, anyway). The free sign-up gets you one online horse; after that, you need to purchase Bella Sara trading cards (each one has a unique horse with a registration code) in order to add horses to the virtual stable. Each horse comes with a positive-reinforcement message that's displayed each time you go to its stable to feed and care for it. With each horse added, you get horseshoes, the Bella Sara currency that allows you to \"buy\" furnishings, decorations, and more for your cottage. The site also has a horse encyclopedia; fanciful, kid-friendly games and online jigsaw puzzles; horse images to color (online or printed out); plus quizzes, wallpaper, and other fun stuff. Kids can even email a question to Sara, the young daughter of the Bella Sara founder, who owns and trains two horses.
Is it any good?
This site is a delightful, fantasy-filled place where girls will enjoy spending their time (though parents need to make sure it's a reasonable amount of time). The only downside is that if a kid is unable to buy a lot of cards and add horses fairly often, he or she may eventually run out of things to do.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the pros and cons of computer play. How much is OK, and when is it better to play in the real world? Families can also talk about horses and what it takes to care for one. How do you think caring for a real horse would be different from caring for an online horse?