A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are two separate games offered in this site, both based on the cartoon series: Horseland Jr. for kids who are 6 to 12, and Horseland World for teens. Both sites are about owning, training, and caring for horses within a virtual community. The simplified Horseland Jr. will probably be most engaging to kids under 8 years old as graphics are simple and activities are very easy and safe. Horseland World is for a more mature audience. Teen players need to be on their toes to keep clear of hostile community members in the limited and very hard-to-read chat rooms. There's a filter, but you can post bad things if you're a creative speller, and the filter doesn't edit out any grown-up talk about sexual assault or taking drugs. There's also talk of horses in the game being slaughtered or abused. It's free to play as a basic player, but $30 a year gets you more options. Ads pop up a lot in the chat rooms and there's a link to buy Horseland products.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
On HORSELAND.COM, horses are featured in a game that gives kids and teens a taste of what's involved in owning a horse. For the under-13 set, there's Horseland Jr., but the bulk of the site's community is tied to Horseland World, the game for teens and up that offers a simulated network of horse owners, trainers, club presidents, and stable owners. Playing requires an email address, your age, gender, and postal code. Once in, there are plenty of opportunities for learning about the care of horses. Horseland Jr. lets you select a horse (choosing from characters you'll also find in the Horseland cartoon series), which you then care for daily. Once kids grow out of Horseland Jr., it's on to Horseland World, which is a much more complicated, interactive game.
Is it any good?
You can't play without interacting with members of the online community, and the chat rooms can be friendly and fun, but they can also be full of hate, violent, or sexual talk -- that have nothing to do with horses.
Horseland Jr. activities will be very exciting to the younger set, but they become limiting once the most challenging jumps are mastered. And the daily care can become problematic for parents who prefer that kids only use the computer on occasion. In Horseland World, players must buy a horse and find a place to board it; already there's a feeling of hostility, as existing members write that they won't sell to "noobs" (those new to the game). Finding a stable can also be a challenge, with stable owners (premium members) advising "noobs" to stay away or saying that a horse won't be fed. The horses that are valued have higher lineage, better training, and trophies from shows. All of this takes money, which can be made by training others, selling horses, or other legit means -- but beware of show trainers who steal horses, stable owners who over-charge, and hackers who will take money. Is the goal of this game to learn more about the responsibilities of horse rearing, or to be superior in the show arena, own more horses than others, and control stables?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about safety online, especially in the Horseland World section where teens can chat with other members. What information should you share online, and what should you keep private? Families can also use this game to help kids understand the huge responsibility of horse ownership -- the care, time, and resources necessary to keep a horse healthy and happy. What sacrifices in a kid's busy schedule will have to be made to meet the daily requirements of the horse?