A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids can play for free at this soccer-themed virtual world, but a premium membership buys you a customizable avatar and provides access to pre-scripted chat, multiplayer games and more.
What's it about?
Developed in the U.K., PLANETSOCCERLIVE.COM is a virtual soccer world where kids can kick a ball around the site's city, beach, or other locations, play games or buy shorts, hats and other accessories for their avatar. You can also view scores from recent professional soccer games. Basic membership -- which lets you travel to some of the site's worlds and kick the ball around alone -- is free. Premium membership -- which allows you to dress your avatar in special accessories and challenge other members to games -- costs 3.50 a month or 33.50 a year (about $4.50/month or $42/year.) To register, kids must enter a parent's email, date of birth, gender, country, user name, and password. Parents then get a confirmation email with a link to activate the account.
Is it any good?
The site deserves kudos for its attempt to make sure kids have a safe (and potentially international) soccer experience -- users can chat with each other but can only use pre-selected questions and responses like "How are you feeling?" Kids who love soccer will probably enjoy cruising around and kicking the ball on their own for a little while. However, to access all the site's worlds and to play actual games against other players, you'll need to buy the premium membership and currently, moving between worlds can be a bit slow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it might be a good idea to communicate with people in virtual worlds using sayings and expressions that the Web site provides -- instead of just having the chance to instant message each other. What kind of information does that protect you from accidentally sharing? How does that make it safer?
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