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 virtual world is safe and age-appropriate for younger kids. Kids have to know their real-life friends' user names in order to add them as online friends -- there's no way to "friend" strangers. However, parents should note that friends can send each other messages, and there's no language filter on what they can type.
What's it about?
Aimed at kids ages 4-10, SHIDONNI blends elements of virtual worlds, social networking, and creating. Kids start by drawing an animal that \"comes to life\" as an animation, dancing around the screen. Then, kids create a habitat for their creature, give it some food, and send it off into the universe to explore and play games. Kids can find friends online and send snacks and other goodies to their pals' pets. Users have the option of joining the basic site for free or purchasing a \"pro\" membership with special features for $5.95 a month.
Is it any good?
By letting users draw their own animals, habitats, and accessories, Shidonni puts a creative spin on virtual pet sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz. However, Shidonni's interface isn't very intuitive -- parents may have to help younger kids master the basic commands. And good luck trying to draw an animal that's more sophisticated than a bug ... or even a pet rock. Overall, Shidonni gets the thumbs-up for its creative concept and cute features -- like drawing snacks to feed your creature -- but could use an upgrade in user-friendliness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about setting limits on online game play. How can you balance computer play with playing in the "real" world? Families can also talk about safety with virtual worlds and social networking. How do you know if you can trust someone enough to make them your online friend?