A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that McWorld is McDonald's virtual world, and as such, the site contains marketing for the fast food chain. The consumerism is slightly more subtle than on HappyMeal.com but still present. Kids can play games, create a video, and partake in other activities without registering. However, to enter the mCode from a Happy Meal, which provides additional avatar goods and other items, they'll need to sign up by entering a username and password.
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Is it any good?
Kids will find plenty to see and do in McDonald's virtual MCWORLD. They're able to create an avatar -- with or without registering -- and play games, watch videos, or just wander around. The site is a visually impressive world: In the haunted house, green ghosts emerge from a doorway, and a skate park features fun graffiti-like graphics. McWorld is also a pretty safe destination: Kids don't have to enter much personal information to register, and they can't key in their own chat conversations -- a list of sayings is provided for them.
That said, while the site doesn't feature as many plugs as one of the eatery's other sites, Happymeal.com, it's hard to forget that McWorld was created to promote McDonald's. Happy Meal characters (and boxes) pop up throughout the site, and kids are told that Happy Meal codes will unlock exclusive avatar accessories and other items. Parents who are uncomfortable with any kind of product-centric focus may want their kids to limit their visit to the McWorld -- and spend more time playing in the real one.
Online interaction: Kids can chat with other users using safe, pre-scripted terms. The results from some site activities, such as the create-your-own-music-video option, also can be emailed to up to four friends.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's possible to eat a healthy, balanced diet -- fruits, vegetables, protein, and more -- and still have foods such as burgers and fries. And is it possible to go to a fast food restaurant and avoid eating too much unhealthy stuff, like fried food and tons of sugar?
If you're playing games on a site that's made by a company, like McDonald's, does it make you want to buy the things the company sells? How does advertising influence you? Is McWorld an advertisement disguised as games, and if so, is this a sneaky way to advertise to kids?
Virtual worlds often offer a ton of activities and places to visit -- and you can easily end up spending a lot of time checking them out. How much time is too much time to spend on the Internet? How can you balance the time you spend online with the time you spend outside?