What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this virtual world offers users several forms of online expression, including personal journals and Web site pages. It's easy to register for one adult message board -- the other requires a fee -- and although the board is fairly clean and the site says it has near-constant monitoring, it's not hard to find some questionable posts (one asking another user to give someone a plane ticket). Also, it's worth noting that the site allows words like "damn," "hell," and "crap," and while users are instructed not to post about religion on the boards, they're told it's OK to mention it in their journals. The site also constantly asks for donations, and stresses buying things for your virtual pet.
What's it about?
MARAPETS.COM allows users to create virtual pets that can travel through 16 virtual worlds, which users can then write about on the free Web site and online journals they receive when registering. Both are hosted on the site -- as are a number of ads.
Is it any good?
Virtual worlds area dime a dozen these days, and unfortunately, this one doesn't cut it. Besides having not much to do, kids will probably get annoyed by the constant solicitations for donations (you can pay via credit card or cell phone) which in a Catch-22 situation, also gets users a few "extra benefits, items, and rewards." Users must care for and feed their virtual pet or it will die; but that just typically involves answering a question about whether or not you want to feed your pet. When traveling through the site, you stumble upon some food, but nothing really happens. This activity, like the rest of the site, is low on interactive fun.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the dangers of posting personal information on public areas of Web sites -- even if those areas are restricted to registered site users. What information is OK to share online? What should be kept private? How can posting or giving someone personal information such as an email address be unsafe?