A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Webkinz allows kids to "adopt" their store-bought plush pet and care for it in an online virtual world for one year. Some of the games here are casino-style "pull-a-lever" games, while others are somewhat educational. Kids play them for points to buy stuff for their pet. Ads for Webkinz features and plush toys are plastered all over, and third-party ads (which can be shut off by parents for 30 days at a time) seem to populate the site now more than ever. Cheat codes for Webkinz are available online, so parents should talk to kids about how cheating online is the same as cheating in real life.
Is it any good?
This site is a favorite for many elementary school-age kids because of all of the colorful, fun things to do that mimic real-world responsibilities. It does promote shopping and spending -- there are plenty of ways to earn and spend KinzCash (to buy clothes and furniture for the pet's room), on- and off-line. The ads for Webkinz products and other third-party ads are all over the place, and the site doesn't make it easy for parents to find where to turn the third-party ads off. Overall, Webkinz is slightly educational and mostly fun, which adds up for lots of repeat visits. Time limits are a must.
Online interaction: Kids can participate in KinzChat, which is a controlled, pre-scripted chat that prevents kids from sharing personal information. In regular KinzChat, you can only chat with others in games, unless you know your friends' -- then you can mail letters to them, and visit their Webkinz online "house." Even in KinzChat PLUS, which is a filtered chat that parents must approve, members can report other members who aren't chatting age-appropriately.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the rules for playing safely in an online world.
Kids may be tempted to play in virtual worlds for long periods of time. Families can also talk about setting computer time limits.
Families can talk about the prevalence of cheating and how Webkinz secrets and cheat codes are offered freely on the Internet. Ask your kid whether they think it's OK to use cheat codes in a virtual world.
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