A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this NFL virtual world and gaming site charges $4.95 a month for a premium membership. Kids can access most of the site for free but are encouraged to upgrade. Registration requires a user name, password, email address, and birth date; kids who are under 13 must provide a parent's email address. Chat is only available in safe mode, which prevents kids from entering personal information or using profanity. Kids could feel rejected or frustrated if their attempts to chat or play games are ignored. There's no "friending" feature right now, but the site plans to add one in the future.
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What's it about?
A virtual world peppered with mini-games, NFL RUSH ZONE (NFLRZ) gives young football fans a chance to step into a rookie's cleats. Players are drafted by a team and sent to its hometown, where they receive their first paycheck from the coach. The money can be exchanged for daily rations; smart food choices help boost health points. Players can also amp up their vital stats by training -- playing speed and skill games -- in the hopes of working their way up through the ranks. Challenging other players is a way to earn pigskins, which premium members can exchange for gear and avatar upgrades.
Is it any good?
NFLRZ scores with its lively animation and creative concept, although diehard fans looking for info on teams, players, and stats -- or chat about sports -- won't find much of that here. But kids who are mostly interested in game play should enjoy the site's dozens of simple but addictive arcade-style offerings, like the goofy Haunted Ghoulpost and Blitz Bot Conga Chaos, which don't require a premium membership. One caveat: The site can be extremely slow to load at times.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's reasonable and what's excessive when it comes to playing games online (watch our video about online gaming). Since the game rewards players for eating well, parents can also talk about the media's mixed messages on nutrition. Diet is a key part of success in athletics, so why are sports stars often seen promoting soda and fast food? For tips, check out Talking to Your Kids About Junk Food and Fast Food Advertising.
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