A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the MoshiMonsters virtual world site is more entertainment than educational. Kids take care of cute little creatures and earn points to "buy" stuff for their computer-based pets while being introduced to online social networking. There are numerous ways for kids to interact here, although most of the site's focus seems to be on playing games, caring for your own pet, and decorating your own virtual world. Even so, make sure your child knows how to block unwanted friend requests and report posts that are rude or inappropriate, just in case. There's a reassuring section for parents that explains the site's concept and safety measures. The site also has a huge push for purchased items, with membership promoted as a way to receive new features. Items range from the inexpensive to the pricey, so parents should be aware of the potential costs for the site.
What's it about?
On the MOSHIMONSTERS site, kids customize and name their choice of monster, which can be active in three places: its home, its garden, and Monstro City. Kids can access Rox-earning puzzles from home or click a map of Monstro City to go places to play games and shop. (A few locations are open to paid members only.) To add friends, players must know each other's usernames, and, once added, they can trade messages on a "pin board."
Is it any good?
This online social world belongs in the increasingly long line of sites where kids take care of little creatures and earn points to "buy" stuff for their computer-based pets while being introduced to virtual worlds and online social networking. This site's creators know that cute monsters and colorful graphics catch kids' eyes and keep their attention online. A U.K.-created site for grade school readers, it includes some games that are well constructed, quick, and fun enough to disguise the fact that kids are actually learning. Monster owners' ages, home countries, and genders are visible, which may be objectionable to some parents, as might be the focus on money for digital goods or memberships to guarantee larger amounts of access.
The site also comes with some limited social-networking features. Players can leave comments on their friends' "pinboards" in their rooms. To make friends, kids are supposed to know their friends' screen names, but players can also find that out online via the forums, through community-section features, and by wandering around the virtual world. MoshiMonsters is an interesting introduction to social networking and helps kids learn a thing or two, but its limitations and financial focus ruins some of the experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about safely interacting with people online. How does interaction with other players on this site compare to that on similar sites?
What does it means to "know" someone, and are online "friends" really friends? It's never too early to start planting seeds about Internet safety, even with elementary school-age kids.
For kids who love virtual worlds
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