A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Space Heroes Universe is a virtual world with space-themed games and activities as well as an optional social component. If parents are concerned about kids chatting online, it's important to be involved when kids register to help them choose from the two chat options. "Menu chat" only lets kids communicate using pre-determined greetings; "filtered safe chat" lets kids type in their own chat comments, which are moderated 24/7 and run through a word filter to remove bad language, phone numbers, and other personal information.
What's it about?
SPACE HEROES UNIVERSE offers games and activities that stress reaching goals -- for example, kids need to complete certain tasks before graduating from the site's space academy. Kids can customize the avatar they name when registering. The site also offers a significant social aspect. As users walk around the sizeable virtual world, they're able to chat with other users by either keying in words or choosing from a list of pre-selected terms.
Is it any good?
The Space Heroes Universe virtual world may be a bit confusing for younger kids at first -- there are lots of places to go, and finding the activities in each section isn't always easy. However, once kids find them, the instructions are fairly clear. To graduate from the site's space academy and zoom off into space, kids are encouraged to reach certain goals. They get to shoot at asteroids and other objects in the visually impressive, easy to navigate, games. The site also contains some additional activities, like a printable PDF with science experiment instructions on growing crystals at home. Parents can pick whether kids have open (albeit filtered) chat capabilities or can only use pre-written phrases like "Howdy."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to stay safe online. Why would it help to use the pre-written expressions for chatting with users you don't know?
Even though the site has a language filter, people can sometimes slip bad words -- or other information -- through when chatting. What kinds of things should you look out for? What kinds of information should you not reveal to people you don't know?
How much time should you spend playing in virtual worlds instead of the real one? It's easy to get sucked into sites that offer a lot of games and activities. Discuss finding balance by setting a daily or weekly limit to make sure kids get some outdoors time, too.
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