Webkinz is the toy craze of the new millennia. What is a Webkinz? It is a stuffed animal that has a virtual life. New owners of a Webkinz go online, name their pet, and begin to care for it via an online game. The whole process is part playing with dolls and part video game, and it is very popular with children. If you are buying your child a Webkinz, you will want to know how to avoid the pitfalls associated with the toy while at the same time reaping the benefits.
So what are the pitfalls associated with the Webkinz craze?
The first pitfall, just as with any video game, is the amount of time that kids will spend in front of the computer. The best way to handle this is to set limits and stick to them. When deciding to buy a Webkinz, decide how much time the child can spend on the website. You might have to set a timer by the computer so the child can monitor the time.
Similar to the time problem is the possibility that children will replace outdoor activities or homework with virtual games. You can let children earn their web time by playing outside. They could also earn web time by doing chores, practicing their instrument, or doing homework. Web time doesn’t need to replace other positive activities; instead, it can replace TV time or other “down” time.
One real concern that parents have about Webkinz World is that children are exposed to online chat rooms. There are two chat rooms available to Webkinz users. KinzChat is a room where kids can make up messages out of available phrases. Think of the “refrigerator magnet poetry” to understand how this works. There is no way for children to post personal information by using these pre-determined conversation bits. The other chat room has a lot of filters in place to prevent inappropriate content but it does allow the children to post personal messages. If you don’t want your kids posting personal messages, you can use the Parental Control option and block the option on your computer.
What are the benefits of Webkinz?
Just like a real pet, Webkinz can teach children responsibility. Only you will never have to clean up anything! Kids start out with $2000 dollars in kinzcash with which to buy rooms, toys, treats, and food for their pet. Once this money is gone, they have to “get a job” to earn money to take care of the animal. These jobs are online video games.
These games can be educational. There are a lot of trivial pursuit type games that ask questions about topics that the children will be learning in school. Playing these games will reinforce what the children are learning and maybe even motivate them to learn more.
Webkinz teaches kids to use their imaginations. Some experts recommend that besides the virtual interaction, kids also draw pictures and tell stories about their pets.
Webkinz also lets children learn about the Internet. Kids do need to develop computer skills. The world is increasingly run by computers, and it is increasingly important that people learn to function in a virtual world. By playing with Webkinz, kids will necessarily be going online, surfing through a website, and using a keyboard. All of the computer activity on Webkinz World is conducted in a kid safe environment where you won’t have to worry about the computer content that your child is exposed to.
Like just about anything, Webkinz has its good side and its bad side. It is up to you as a parent to be as informed as possible about any toy that comes into your house and any website that your child goes to.