Whyville

(i)

 

Learning(i)

Social site with good edu value needs supervision.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Like in any avatar world, kids can be rejected rudely. On the other hand, there are socially responsible messages, too.

Violence

Some kids choose violent monikers or use violent images in speech.

Sex

Chat rooms are not constantly monitored; lots of chats about who's getting with whom. A number of avatars have sex-inspired names ("Wannafak").

Language

Kids can misspell words to get around the filter. Some kids use violent speech such as "I want to hurt him until he dies," which the filters don't catch.

Consumerism

Areas are "sponsored" by Cheetah Girls, Scion, and more. Kids are encouraged to buy "clams" in order to purchase things by playing games. You can also pay for "clams" using real money via the Internet.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this site is a popular virtual community created for kids (mostly girls) ages 8 to 15, although it may not be appropriate for the younger side of that wide span. The main concern is that although the site uses a language filter and city workers review the chat log and warrant "duct tape sentences" to offenders, the chat is not monitored 24/7. But kids must take a instructive chat license test that teaches online safety features. Numerous safety measures built into the site help protect kids from online predators.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • biology
  • ecosystems
  • physics

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • analyzing evidence

Responsibility & Ethics

  • respect for others

Health & Fitness

  • balanced diet

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

This popular virtual community for kids (mostly girls) ages 8 to 15 offers science- and math-centric learning games, chat, the opportunity to embellish avatars, and a fun place to hang out.

Learning Approach

Kids are free to play a wide variety of games and scenarios at their own pace. Some activities have immediate consequences: A bad diet makes avatars look pale and ocean pollution is a call for collective problem solving.

Support

Help is available from in-world characters such as Dr. Leila, as well as player-members serving as guides. Still, the vastness of the site can be overwhelming if kids are not sure where to start.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • biology
  • ecosystems
  • physics

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • analyzing evidence

Responsibility & Ethics

  • respect for others

Health & Fitness

  • balanced diet

Kids can learn many things in Whyville, from science and data analysis to managing bank accounts and healthy diets. Kids might start by playing science games, such as exploring what causes seasons and how winds affect hot air balloons, or making objects spin faster (such as an ice skater). They can gather data about creatures in the ocean and compare it to other kids’ observations. They manage their avatar’s diet, exercise, and immunity from viruses. Kids can even study how diseases spread in Whyville. Activities may require help, but most empower kids to pursue science in ways that apply to everyday life.

This Learning Rating review was written by Deborah Fields

What's it about?

On Whyville, users create an avatar and meet others. Together, they play science- and math-centric learning games, chat, spend virtual (or actual) money, and hang out. Set up to mirror a real-life community, users can participate in government. As in adult virtual communities such as Teen Second Life, users spend virtual money -- called clams, here -- to buy cars, build their own homes, and fancy up their avatars. Clams can be purchased with real money via PayPal or through gameplay.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Although creators have included a number of safety measures (including registering for the site with a parent's email, requiring a parental permission slip to be sent via snail mail, taking a thorough pre-chat test, and reporting abuses by other players through a "911 report"), one of the site's major mishaps is that the chat rooms aren't monitored around the clock, so there can be predictable teen-like interchanges about "hooking up" and some inappropriately frank -- and sometimes hurtful -- comments.

Many of the educational components within Whyville are sponsored by well-respected institutions in the science, art, health and math fields, such as NASA and the John Paul Getty Trust. On the negative side, however, there are a lot of advertisers on the site, including Wal-Mart, Disney, and the car maker Scion. The constant call for clams and trumpeting of big-ticket items like cars makes Whyville somewhat of a conundrum for parents: Do the educational benefits outweigh the commercial influences?

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how some activities on this site are different from other virtual worlds. Do your kids come to the site because it offers good community activities? Does the safety test help them feel safer exploring the site. Families can also take a tour of the site together and talk about what they see.

Website details

Genre:Educational
Pricing structure:Free

This review of Whyville was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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About Our Rating System

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byZacharyNB November 11, 2015
LEARNING

Invest time into the site, and you will reap the benefits.

Whyville's main focus has always been on educating its users. To this effect, it does very well: every user on whyville has a daily salary, and they receive a set amount of clams when they log in. The salary can be raised by engaging in the website's plethora of educational games. Not only do these games enhance classroom learning, but they also are structured in a very challenging and engaging way. The games also don't fit only one age group. I joined this website when I was 9, and I am now 21. Note that I am in no way affiliated with the site, I am just a user who has learned a few things along the way. During these years, whyville has helped me succeed in the classroom--tools such as the "Spectroscopy Game" helped me understand important concepts that I was later able to apply throughout high school and even in college. The education doesn't stop with the games. There are also other factors, such as social development. When you join whyville, you become part of a tight-knit community. Your child will develop lasting friendships, and if anything like me, will use social skills developed on the site in real life. There are so many lifelong friends I have known from the website for over 10 years. Your child will also learn about the economy of face parts (designers can customize their avatars with approval from Akbar, the owner of the face factory). Due to supply and demand, face parts range from a few to hundreds of thousands of clams and above! I just want to address some prior reviews because I disagree with some of their points. First of all, there were issues with lack of round-the-clock supervision on the site but these have been addressed and there is now a near-constant adult presence. There is no website where you child will be 100% safe, but Whyville does a very great job and has zero-tolerance for bullies. Secondly the learning rating of only 3/5 is woefully inaccurate. I have learned so many skills from their games, which skirt the line between fun and learning so well! And yes, the website may be vast, but the guides do an adequate job of showing new users where the popular chat rooms are, and the site's vastness allows for a new adventure every day! I still find new rooms after 11 years on the site. Some other quick rebuttals to points raised in other reviews: Enrolling in the whyeat program is completely optional and you can quit at anytime. Therefore, you do not have to eat everyday. And one again, the problem with inappropriate behaviour has been addressed, the website is much better moderated now than it was at the time the prior reviews were written. The Common Sense Media overview asks: "do the educational benefits outweigh the commercial influences?" However, these commercial influences provide an incentive for children to learn, and whyville teaches kids to view everything with a critical eye. The perceived balance in this review between educational and corporate sponsors is unfair. Wal-Mart sponsored whyville only temporarily for two months in 2005, and other corporations like Disney are not nearly as big factors as this review would make them seem to be. Scion is also cited, but I believe that whoever wrote this misunderstood the whole point of the site--children cannot afford to buy a car (scion) unless they devote a certain amount of time to the website's educational games. The site's mingling between commercial incentives and learning is not a weakness, its a strength. There is no other website where education and social development are so well intertwined. Alternatives suggested by Common Sense Media like Club Penguin and The Club do not come close to providing the same benefits that Whyville has given me through the years.
Educator and Parent Written byLexvys February 8, 2014
LEARNING

Whyville is EPIC

Whyville is one of the best virtual worlds I have ever seen. You can chat with friends and even be a stylist at a salon! This world teaches lots of real life skills like managing a business to earning a salary. Even though there is some dating and privacy concerns, I love Whyville. I'm xxMaghda on it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Safety and privacy concerns
Kid, 10 years old January 5, 2010

Hmm...

well I go on whyville and im 10 I think its okay for my age but suddenly im noticing there are people telling Each other THEIR PHONE NUMBERS!!! And saying oh here baby text me or call me shmexxi (sexy) so idk...iffy on this review...
What other families should know
Too much sex

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