What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that PANFU, not to be confused with the very similar looking Pandanda, is yet another virtual world for kids that is mostly eye-candy. It does include some fun elements, most of which require paying for the Gold Panda membership ($9.90/mo or $7.90/mo for three months) to access. Site creators list intended ages as four to 14 and six to 14, depending upon where you look on the site. Either way, if your child can't read, this site will be frustrating and older kids might find the site a bit lackluster. Chatting is mostly safe with pre-scripted and filtered chat, though exchanges tend to be superficial.
Is it any good?
The cute pandas on their missions in this generally safe virtual world might capture the attention of kids who are good readers and enjoy online virtual world play. A nice touch is the welcome crew and the various characters (not actual players) who visit you throughout your time on the site to explain how to play in this world. Pandas can chat, dress up, and play several minigames, like a balloon-popping game with some physics concepts. Panfu is heavily promoted with TV ads on children's networks, but it may not live up to the expectations of some younger viewers who beg their parents to visit the site, especially those who cannot read well. Buying a Gold Panda membership is heavily promoted here on almost every area of this game. Ads for many products appear on the free version.
Online interaction: Most of the online interaction observed here is typical of other kids' virtual world sites. "What are you doing?" "Do you want to stay here?" "Are you mad at me?" "I want a boyfriend." Younger kids may have a hard time understanding when a chat is rejected.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how seeing a commercial on TV or on a website makes it seem like you just have to have whatever it is they're selling to you. Read Common Sense Media's Selling to Kids parent tips.
Talk about virtual world "friends." What does it really mean to be a friend? What is meaningful chat? Is it appropriate to ask someone on a virtual world to be your girlfriend or boyfriend? Read Common Sense Media's Online Worlds for Young Kids primer.