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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this social networking site -- with its cute cartoon animals -- looks like it's for younger kids, but with the capability to send someone a personal e-mail, IM a "friend," and chat without a filter, it really should be saved for teens. To play, you have to download a big file (150.5 MB). A demo version is available, but also as a downloadable program (13.8 MB). Kids need to give an ID, password, birth date, gender, and full name to join. Once a member, kids fill out a profile where more optional, yet identifying, information can be entered: religion, occupation, nearest city, high school, etc, but can be kept private. Kids shop for clothing, food, or stuff for their pets to play with. Games are available, but either require a download or purchase with shells (GoPets currency that are earned or purchased with real dollars). Some GoPets products are available for sale, but not heavily advertised.
What's it about?
Come one, come all to GOPETSLIVE.COM, where pets are created and friends are made. It seems like this site took elements of several existing social networking and virtual world sites. You can buy and sell land (a la Second Life), create a profile page with personal information and communicate with other members (a la MySpace), and adopt a pet and dress it (a la Webkinz). GoPets currency (shells) are earned by participating (or they can be bought with cold hard cash). Members are allowed access to different features and objects based on their "level," which is also determined by the size of their bank account. Members aren't created equally -- there are also 3 more tiers of membership beyond the free level, starting at $3.95 a month. This site is offered in 15 different languages and boasts an icon-based chatting language for those who want to interact with members who speak different languages. Kids can also make new friends by browsing profiles of their friends' friends.
Is it any good?
There are a couple really cool features on this site worth noting. Kids can purchase certain items with their shell inventory that will actually provide cash to specific charities. GoPets can learn a skill by purchasing a craft: farming, tailoring, cooking, fishing, which with practice will provide more goods. For example, grow apple tree and mix apple with water to make apple juice. Kids may be quickly addicted to the exploring, shopping, and chatting capabilities found here, but with so much going on, this is social networking at its finest -- and most complicated.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what type of information is safe to share with others online. At GoPetsLive.com, privacy settings are available in each account profile. Kids and parents can talk about whether they will invite friends to the site, be open to friends of friends, or keep their information and profiles on the private setting. Discussion about how to handle an unwelcome invitation to chat or inappropriate comments may be helpful before entering the site.