A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that ads and foul, sexist, and homophobic language run thick on Habbo, a popular teen chat and gaming site. Avatars sling absolutely vulgar talk at each other in the public rooms, some of the more popular rooms being the "Sexy Singles Club" and "Love in this Club [beds]." Some chat rooms are locked. Moderators can reportedly ban users for hours, days, or even permanently for offenses. Teens buy Habbo Coins to pay for stuff to decorate their personal hotel room, play games, buy music, and more. The coins are $9.95 in real money for 60 coins. Users must pay to do almost anything engaging on the site (other than walking around and participating in chats), including most games.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
HABBO.COM touts itself as a free virtual community where teens can design their own hotel room, participate in chats, play games, listen to music, and explore the Habbo world, all in a moderated, filtered environment. No one under 13 is allowed to use the site (although if you type in your age as 10 or 11, you're still able to sign up), and users under 18 are supposed to have parental assistance to register, according to site rules. Once registered with a birth date and email address, kids create their own avatar, choosing from fun options like bunny ears and purple hair to face shape and skin tone. The avatars then hang out in one of the many colorful and inviting virtual meeting areas. Helpful \"HabboX\" experts hang out, ready to lend a hand to newbies. The currency used on the site is called Habbo Coins -- which cost real money.
Is it any good?
It's hard to find redeeming qualities that explain the popularity of the online gaming community Habbo, which claims to "improve social skills and creativity," other than the fact that it admits that the content here "may not be appropriate for all ages." That's an understatement. There's vulgar, sexual, mean, and racist talk ("ur mom is sukin me now," "Shiite," and the "N" word, for example) that gets through the safeguards. Users purposely misspell words to get them through the filters. And the overabundance of ads popping up every time you enter a new area makes it nearly impossible to get anywhere without the implantation of buying messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about safety in virtual worlds. This site is popular with teens, but does this site constitute safe Internet use for your teen? What kind of information should be off limits, and what's OK to tell people?
Families can also discuss consumerism in virtual worlds. What are users really getting in return for their cash by buying pretend stuff in this pseudo-world?