A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the ultra-girly virtual world is free to join, but kids are frequently encouraged to sign up for a VIP membership, which offers access to additional areas; special quests; and extra star coins, used to buy avatar clothing, furniture, and pets. VIP memberships cost $5.95 per month or $49.95 a year. If users are under 13, parents need to approve their child's registration via e-mail.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
SPARK CITY WORLD was designed for tween girls: They play games, get virtual currency, then spend it on avatar gear. A few games offer educational content, but many just involve dragging items to certain spots to advance to the next level. The site also encourages girls to share their thoughts by chatting with several users or one-on-one via a whisper chat option. Sharing personal info is prohibited, and a filter blocks email addresses and phone numbers -- but girls can friend users they don't know, which could be a concern.
Is it any good?
The virtual SPARK CITY WORLD -- formerly known as AllGirlArcade -- features activities geared toward girls age 6-14, including games, shopping for avatar fashions and other items, and chatting with other users. Some aspects, such as a crafting section, encourage girls to express themselves and be creative; however, many of the games just focus on mindless fun. A well-labeled map makes it easy to get around, but some parts of the site can be a little confusing. Certain games, for example, include detailed instructions; others don't have any. Kids can also view a list of the daily tasks they're encouraged to complete -- but may not be able to find the individual challenges.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the site's emphasis on purchasing clothing and other items. When you buy new clothes on the site, does it make you want new things in real life?
Ask your child which character is her favorite -- and why. Does she like another user or site character because of the way she looks or due to her personality? Families can discuss how some characters may be more likable than others, depending on how much your child has in common with them.
Users can chat privately with each other on the site or make comments that everyone can see. Is it OK to chat with someone you don't know in real life? What comments should you avoid responding to when chatting online -- like requests for your real name or address?