A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that unless you want to pay $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year for a ClubFoo premium membership, this popular virtual world pet site has limited things for kids to do. Players can adopt adorable, amazingly true-to-life-looking dogs and cats, and play with and feed them. But the virtual world with social networking and lots of creative features (like "breeding" your pet with another to have a litter of puppies or kittens) can only be accessed with ClubFoo membership, and if you're under 13 with parental permission. Members can chat with other members and post comments and in the forums, not all of which are tween appropriate. Members also receive frequent emails urging them to log onto the site to care for the pet. This is not a kids-only site, so parents may want to check in often.
What's it about?
Once kids adopt and name a pet, they have a few tools to ensure it stays healthy. Pets must get food, water, and playtime about once every 24 hours and email reminders help kids stay on schedule. Arcade-style games earn FooDollars to use for food and other items at the store. Kids can add friends, play with their friends' pets, and even breed with other pets, provided the pets are old enough and the owners have the proper licensure. If kids catch their pet being adorable, they can take a photo and post it to a gallery or brag about it in the pet owners forum.
Is it any good?
The realistic images and engaging game play for these virtual pets is impressive, and it's easy for players -- kids, teens, and adults -- to be hooked by cuteness alone. The site, created by a vet, also presents good information about responsible pet ownership and the realities of pet care. But the heavy push to join the pay-to-play membership may cause many tweens to beg more than their virtual pets. FOO PETS also sends a lot of emails to the account with which players register for site access (which is supposed to be a parent account for kids under 13), including e-alerts to let you know if you haven't fed your pet or it otherwise needs some sort of care.
Online interaction: Opportunities to meet other Foo Pets owners and share pet care responsibilities if your child is 13 or older, or gets your permission, as well as play games and interact with other pet owners. Interaction is generally positive, but some mild name-calling happens in the forums.
Talk to your kids about ...
What features on a virtual world make it safer for kids? Check out Common Sense Media's guide to virtual worlds for young kids.
What is the difference is between a virtual pet and a real pet. Do you think a site like this makes kids more in tune to the needs of a real pet, or less so?
Like so many other websites, Foo Pets ties heavily into Facebook. Parents, if you don't already know how to use Facebook and if your tween or teen is on it, read Common Sense Media's Parents' Guide to Facebook and discuss what you learn about this site with your kids.
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