A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although the site's "rulz" insist that no swearing, bullying, or personal information is allowed, the site isn't monitored 24-7. But moderators check in from time to time, and violations can be reported to the site. Girls can also invite friends to join and send messages to each other using the site's email system. The site requires an email address to register, and although users are supposed to be 13 or older, there's no age verification during registration. Basic membership is free, but VIP membership -- which includes access to virtual fashion shows, $30,000 in the site's virtual currency, and special virtual jewelry, hats, and handbags -- costs $30 for six months.
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What's it about?
FASHIONFANTASYGAME.COM is the brainchild of Nancy Ganz, who created slimming women's undergarments in the '90s and more recently introduced R. Lilly Tuckerwear, Lycra clothing designed for tweens. Designed to foster self-esteem and educate girls about business concepts, the site lets girls pretend to be a fashion designer/shopper or store owner/shopper (users select an option when registering). Fashion designers create and sell clothes. Store owners select a store location and name and decorate their shop, pay rent, and buy clothes from designers using Fashion Bucks, the site's currency. Additional bucks can be bought with a parent's credit card.
Is it any good?
The site's frequent use of pop-up windows is a little annoying. But the concept is clever: Give girls a taste of the business world via a fun game. And the site covers some impressive topics, including accounting (store owners track what they make and spend) and marketing, which girls are encouraged to do by buying fashion magazine ad space. Encouraging users to buy more Fashion Bucks and pay for VIP memberships that don't seem to offer many benefits is a little weird. But everyone has plenty of virtual money to keep making, selling, and buying virtual skirts, dresses, and tops, so the sales pitch can easily be ignored. And, unlike mindless dress-up games, FashionFantasyGame.com offers some learning: It's a virtual fashion-industry internship for tweens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's important to check with a parent before using your mom or dad's credit card to purchase something online. Why would your parents need to know what you're buying? And why could it be dangerous to give out a credit card number? Families can also discuss why some Web sites have age limits. What's the purpose of those limits? Do they work?