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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 browser-based virtual world attracts both teens and adults. The site prohibits profanity and obscene content, and there's very little to be found that violates these standards; by and large, the current community is dedicated to good, clean fun. There's no charge to sign up, but a premium membership is in the works, along with other commercial endeavors.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
SMALLWORLDS.COM adds a new element to the usual chat-and-shop experience of many virtual worlds: missions. Once users create an avatar from a diverse palette of options, they're introduced to the mechanics of their universe via a series of missions. These increasingly complex tasks encourage users to interact with their environment, from acquiring furniture to training a pet. Locations have objects to examine or use, some of which can be integrated with other Web sites -- for example, you can display a Flickr photo in a picture frame or watch a YouTube video on your TV.
Is it any good?
Even in its early stages, SmallWorlds.com is extremely sophisticated and rich in detail, yet user friendly. The beginner missions serve as a handy interactive orientation, teaching players how to zoom, rotate, sit down, use objects, and so on. Helpful tips from moderators and forum users make challenging tasks fun rather than frustrating. Best of all, more advanced users can create their own missions for other players to take on, making this virtual world a truly creative, collaborative endeavor.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's safe to discuss online and what's not. How do you know whether you can trust someone enough to make them a "friend" and share personal information? Some of the missions encourage users to interact with each other, so families can talk about how this kind of interaction compares with offline socializing. Families can also discuss what's a reasonable amount of time to spend on this site, since it's very easy to get carried away.