I am 16 years old, I think I have been playing since I was 11. But began really getting into it at the age of 13 (as in getting serious about keeping up and making money-the site currency). One thing I suggest to parents is keep your child's time limited on the computer, and make sure they spend time with you and their friends. My parents did not raise me so good...so, never mind. Neopets was never, and is not severely addicting to me. The maximum real-time play I would spend on there is 3 hours. But I do play every day, so maybe that makes me an addict? But I could live a day without it, haha!
I say that only kids 10 and up should play this site, because I really don't think it's suitable for the young ones. It used to be so confusing for me to dig deeper in the site...because neopets has a LOT of history. And you have to have some common sense to get the hang of things. And not get into trouble.
There is a part of the site that has the neoboards. The neoboards are the message boards. I think there are about 15 different boards, on which you must follow the rule on each one so you don't post something off-topic. I recommend that when you first sign up to the site, that you go to the Help Board. The community there have some regular users (as do several other boards) and they give very good advice, especially if you ask politely. They do get ticked off if you ask rudely. This board is your central source for all information. (And most importantly, read the rules. Nowadays the mods and staff are strict on the rules of the site.) There are real people behind the screen so treat others as you would like to be treated. We are all users answering each others questions- because the mods don't participate. They do monitor, but they don't chat with us. Another thing, a lot of people are sarcastic and do speak their minds at times and end up arguing with each other on the boards. The neoboards are the most horrible part of the site because you can't get along with everyone. Though, there are mature people like 20+ and they just have more intellectual conversations sometimes, and use vocabulary that some teenagers don't understand. So that's a warning for you kiddies. The age gaps causes differences in the community. Anyways, you can get into big trouble by the way you word a post on the message boards. I have gotten in trouble numerous times this year and past year, for things that I thought weren't a big deal. This makes me kind of angry that the staff is being so strict. There are warnings, you get them from theneopetsteam which is the staff. So read the warning and don't do that again. You can get silenced which means they terminate your privileges of using the message boards for the period of time they give you, or even permanently. So yeah, watch what you say before you post. There are suspensions-the dreaded suspensions that means you cannot even play on the website for the amount of time they give you which is a big bummer. The worst you can get is your account terminated for breaking a rule. Nowadays, I think the range of your punishment depends on how bad what you said was, and for breaking a major/ANY rule. There are many words that can get past the filters which is unfortunate. You are allowed to begin your chatting experience at any time at the age of 13 and up. Personally, I think that theneopetsteam should have us take an iq test before being allowed to post there. I swear the neoboards are like a prison. You messages are automatically posted as soon as you press enter, you do not have to wait for approval or anything. Many boards can be made in less than a minute. Very messy.
Another way of chatting is neomail. (messages personally sent by people) You can neomail anyone you want, but the chat rules still apply. You can report someone for breaking a rule if the mods don't catch it themselves. Neomail or neoboard.
There is also a ticket system (ask the Help board) which basically means you wait in line for a serious problem that you submit in regards to the many glitches that may happen to your account/and or pets. I don't want to talk too much about that. The site has unsatisfactory customer service. Very slow sometimes.
I don't think anyone is very "cheery" on the site nowadays. Haha...but what can you do. Do your own thing.
Now, about the educational value. They have some flash games that require logic, probably a few. And it really teaches you how to save up and work towards a goal by yourself. You cannot beg for items, pets, or the neopoints (currency) because that is against the rules. The playing side of the site-is fun only if you have fun. If you find yourself trying too hard then maybe you shouldn't play. It is really just a game so don't take it seriously. Big neopoint makers: is the newly added, Habitarium. It's like a giant online ant farm. Time consuming but it's fast neopoints once you reach a high level. Key quest, which is an interactive board game. My personal favorite. You unlock vaults with keys and you get prizes, and you can sell your prizes with your very own shop. And the stock market (mature side of the site-although 13-year-olds can access it) makes you neopoints gradually when you sell and buy stocks. Neopets has a lot of content, but I'll try my best to cover the most viewed parts. Now considering there are many ways you can get neopoints, there are even users who may have a billion in their bank. All from easy games, and being fast when buying a virtual item-then selling it. That's the hard part. I have met people who have 300 million and over-that's really scary. But they are dedicated, or perhaps they have great methods at being consistent. And why are they making so much money? Because they can, and you are never limited on the neopoints you make. And because a lot of the virtual items on the site are expensive. Honestly, if you are poor you won't get much "virtual items" to keep/have in your possession. That's your choice-haha, you make your living even online.
Now, about the Neopets. Yes, the virtual pets are called Neopets too. Mostly all of the Neopets are available to create on the create-a-pet-page. When you first join, you have to make one. Even if you don't want to take care of it. Restricted pets are the Draik and Krawk. A Draik is a cartoony-dragony pet which is about the cost of 4 million on the site as of now. The Krawk is a crocadile-like pet and is the cost of 2 million this year. The Draik has to be hatched from an egg. Or they are both attainable from magical items, morphing potions, etc. Those things cost quite a bit. Limited edition pets are pets that appear, and are sometimes able to create on the create-a-pet-page on their pet day. You can ask the help chat what they are because there are several-Sorry! You can give them your own original names, though some can be taken and unavailable for use. You can dress them up with customizable items which is very fun. They are not animated themselves. But the clothes they wear can be.
Now violence, yes some users can be violent and have attitude, on what I explained before on the neoboards. Don't worry, if they break rules they'll be warned by the staff. There is also a battledome which is where your virtual pet can fight. But it is not animated-which is no fun. I personally don't participate. But some people like it. It's the only close-to-violent place on the site.
The site itself, is very focused on making tons of money. They have the Nc Mall which is neocash mall. Neocash is a real money currency. You have to buy nickelodeon game cards so you can unlock the currency and shop for other items which aren't available otherwise. It consists of clothes and accessories. The big difference is that they are animated, and have better art than the clothes that you buy with neopoints. So people spend and spend. And theneopetsteam have reoccuring events that take place on the site every year. Sometimes new things are introduced. And of course, they contain an option to buy neocash so you can get other items. But it is not required. Another money-maker is premium which means you can be a premium neopets user. So you are paying to play with the advantage of being ad-free and several other great things. Since neopets is partnered with nickelodeon we are getting tons of annoying advertisements.
Now, aside from things that you might find complicated around the site-it is relaxing and easy to play. I enjoy my time there-as I put aside the negative parts of the site. But it can disappoint me at times, but nothing big. It is a virtual site, so don't let it affect you. You have a lot of privacy options, so that is good to keep your account safe.
There has been controversy about whether neopets is a family site, or kid site, or adult site. It has been said that neopets was originally created for college kids, so it did contain profanity before. But they got rid of that for a larger kid audience. So as of now, it is a family site. Because there are families playing. Tweens, teenagers, adults, and elderly people.
So yeah, you should/ can play when your child /or you are in a kid to teen stage and you understand everything I discussed here.
Also-neopets content is great..there are new items released every couple of days to a week. And there is even news for every day, minus the weekend.
Have fun! I'd give the overall site a 6/10 rating because I still enjoy it and I love my virtual pets. haha. You'll meet lots of people saying the same thing...