A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
In MOVIESTARPLANET, kids create a movie star avatar, advancing their fame and collecting coins through a vast number of activities. These range from seeking gifts and playing "Simon Says (Casting)" to collecting friends and autographs, making canned movies in response to thematic challenges, and creating "looks." Available in 15 countries, the site also offers virtual pets and shopping for those with super pricey subscriptions or many hours of accumulated coinage.
Is it any good?
This fantasy website zeroes in on tweens' most basic fears and desires in a carefully crafted virtual world of movies, magazines, fashion, pets, and dating -- but, more than anything else, social status. Wanna know what teenagers want? Easy rewards and expensive privileges mixed with a desire to be liked by strangers. Truly, it's hard not to feel intimidated in user pumpchkin's party room (level 86 fame). Despite prodigious rules and assurances about safety, kids ask each other out in chat spaces where girls can choose provocative outfits (no surprise there), YouTube is fully integrated, and everyone is supposed to be finding an image for a frame on their profile page with a big pink heart next to it. Avatars are 90 percent girls, and guys tend to have suggestive usernames such as HOT LIPS LOVE. For those not quite ready for collecting BFFs and loves, Boonie and Bonster pets offer some safety.
At one end, MovieStarPlanet is as innocent as a poll asking about the best thing about swimming pools, while at the other it's truly mystifying and somewhat disturbing. The stated minimum age of 8 is decidedly too young for full access to this clearly popular site. For example, nearly half of all chats and posts are obscured with hash marks or asterisks because of language issues. Load times can be super sluggish, and games are often weighed down by ads or are just plain age-inappropriate. Finally, the moviemaking zone is a huge lost opportunity for actual learning and collaboration; kids are encouraged with weekly thematic moviemaking challenges for temporary VIP status, but results are stilted and tight. MovieStarPlanet may seem like meaningless fun, but the content and privacy issues raise way too many red flags for even savvy Internet users.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to become a rich and famous celebrity in real life. Would you join a theater company, take singing lessons, or join a band? Are those activities likely to make you rich and famous? Why, or why not?
Discuss the pitfalls of celebrity. Are there downsides to being well known? Are you willing to give up your privacy to be constantly surrounded by fans, press, and other people because you're famous?