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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 site is still in beta and offers a safe chat feature as well as open chat; the open chat is monitored, and obvious inappropriate language gets filtered out. Parental permission isn't required for registration -- users under 18 are simply urged to have their parents read the site's terms and conditions. And, although kids are discouraged from providing personally identifiable information, there's nothing preventing them from doing this (though the info would probably be removed as soon as a monitor sees it). And, younger kids may not understand what's happening when other members ignore them, taunt them, walk away from them, or do other hurtful actions. Consequently, some tweens and younger teens may require supervision while using this site, unless you're sure they're using the safe chat feature -- which happens in all virtual worlds. In addition, the site's creators plan to introduce product ads as an integral part of the user experience.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
Aimed at tweens and teens, PLANETCAZMO.COM is a virtual world where users can explore a fun, quirky community through a unique character they create. After the free registration process, new members get to choose a head shape, eye shape, hairstyle, skin color and more for their avatar (the character that represents them); once their character is created, they can stroll through the Cazmo community and visit places such as Club Cazmo, a skate shop, a mall, a theater, a garage, and a general store. Members can set up and play a song list (choosing from the site's repertoire), decorate their virtual house, play games, and chat with other members (via safe or open chat). The site is still in the beta testing stage -- apparently, many more features will be offered when the completed site launches, such as profiles and uploading content, plus more stores, more games and activities, and more choices of features for avatars.
Is it any good?
Assuming any improvements on the beta version of the site will make it a more lively community (it's hard to get a sense of that when you can't enter all the buildings or participate in very many activities yet), kids will probably find this a fun place to hang out, but older teens may find it a bit boring. The open chat feature and impending features such as the ability to upload content makes the Internet safety aspect questionable, though, and parents should definitely talk about how to be safe and responsible when chatting and interacting with others. Also, the site's creators have clearly stated that they intend to let advertisers use PlanetCazmo.com as a venue for hawking their products to young consumers; this aspect downgrades the site's value considerably, especially given the fact that it has no real educational value.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Internet safety. Participating in a virtual world can be fun, but certain rules need to be followed -- do you know what they are? What would you do if you saw someone breaking those rules? What information is OK to tell someone online? What should be kept private?