Playwala

Website review by
Michelle Kitt, Common Sense Media
Playwala Website Poster Image
Gaming site attempts to mix charity and play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

While Playwala was created with educational intent, it appears to have limited learning potential. Kids can learn a little about a handful of charitable causes that help people and animals locally and internationally. None of the games or user-created puzzles provide much educational benefit, but kids may like that they can wave a flag for the cause of their choice without spending a dime. The link between playing games and doing good is weak at best.

Positive Messages

The site encourages users choose to support one or more nonprofit causes that help kids, adults, or animals both locally and globally.

Violence
Sex
Language

Users create puzzles and word lists without supervision or approval, so anything goes. It's possible to create or stumble upon an inappropriate word, list, clue, or puzzle.

Consumerism

A few banner ads advertise related activities like fundraising and puzzle-making websites. The site vaguely implies that donating to causes or purchasing charitable items leads to some benefit for the user. Playwala asks for tips and automatically suggests $25 donations with a $2 tip.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this gaming and fundraising site does benefit its listed causes, but more so by clicking "Donate" than by playing games. Playwala collects donations via PayPal, so an adult has to log in and approve before forking over the cash. The partner organizations do get the donations (SPARR sent a personal thank you note and lists donors as sponsors on its animal's webpages). Other "do good" activities are less clear. One section lists charitable items for sale but they are random (paintbrushes, an "I love Daddy" bib, a bus pass) or unfamiliar ($100 for something called "Nomex for energy pathway program") and have no details about their contents or who they help. Kids can play games or create puzzles on their own, but there are no controls over the puzzles they and other users create.

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What's it about?

Kids can access Playwala’s activities without registration but with an account, and can show support for one of a handful of charitable causes, which displays in their profiles. Simple navigation on the top and sides lead kids to causes, games, or word puzzles. Kids can click \"Donate\" to help a cause directly (via PayPal) or can purchase something charitable from a selection of randomly chosen, sometimes mysterious items. Donations are reported in a news feed but don’t seem to cue rewards or unlock other benefits.

Is it any good?

Playing games for charity is a fabulous idea for an age group that often gets involved in "swim-," "hoop-," or "jump-a-thons" to raise money. But unlike those "-a-thons," Playwala falls short showing how playing X game benefits Y cause.  It boils down to "pick a cause and make a donation." Playwala reminds us why we’re all here -- widgets can display causes on homepages, companies that support non-profits can post jobs, and kids will feel good when their donations get recognized. But the games are easy, the word puzzles are hit-and-miss, and without good social tools, kids can’t connect with others who support the same issues. It's a noble concept, but kids don't have a lot of money, so Playwala needs lots of kids making lots of little donations to make an impact. As is, the site is not robust enough to attract them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how money is spent in a virtual store versus a real online retailer. Read Common Sense Media’s Learning the Value of a Virtual Dollar.

  • How can you make difference without donating money? Kids typically don’t have a lot of spare change to give, but they can appreciate the value of donating clothing, food, toys, or time.

Website details

For kids who love to get involved

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