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 educational virtual world for elementary school kids aims to teach its young users good character traits and Internet skills, but it may confuse younger kids. The site is far from straightforward -- it requires quite a bit of reading, and kids can't access the site map from all areas. That said, the parent section has some excellent information for parents and grandparents about the Internet-centric culture in which their kids are growing up. Parents need to give approval to join the site and to chat (which is conducted using a list of pre-selected words). Kids can sign up for free, but the premium membership ($6.95/month) comes with lots more bells and whistles.
What's it about?
Developed by the nonprofit Children's Way Foundation, WOOGIWORLD.COM is a virtual world for elementary school-aged kids. It has some impressive goals: It wants to be the site of choice that parents and educators turn to in order to teach kids all about good Internet behavior and safety, leadership, community service, health, and more.
Is it any good?
That's an admirable mission, and the site could be a winner someday ... if it would simplify its directions, give more audio cues for younger kids who can't read fluently, and add more content (many features across the site still say "coming soon").
But for now, the little glitches -- like long loading times, missing content, and confusing directions (for example, "You need to hold the ctrl or shift button while clicking Woogies to add buddies or report misbehavior") -- are going to confuse many kids, especially those in early elementary grades who really need to learn the messages this site wants to teach. Unfortunately, many kids are more likely to choose a site that focuses more on playability and less on lessons.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's important for even the youngest kids to talk to -- maybe sometimes even teach -- their parents and grandparents about what they're doing on the Internet. Also, how does your family decide whether to buy a membership to a site that also has a free option? When is a premium membership "necessary"? Parents, if you pay for a premium membership so you can access chat logs, how do your kids feel about that? Explain why you made the choice to do so, and listen to your child's feelings in response.
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