If you don’t have young kids, than you probably have no idea that social networking has really taken off for kids. In fact, I’d call these social play sites. Our kids are completely addicted to them. They are safe, fun, and most of them teach values that any parent would like to encourage. Here are the top 5 in no particular order. Our kids say “We like them all the same!”
#1 Web Kinz (Cost: Stuffed Animal about $15) Chances are if you’ve heard of one site kids are hooked on, this is it. Parents buy a Web Kinz stuffed pet at a boutique store (like Hallmark) and once home parents create an account for that animal. Kids play games and do tasks to earn money. In turn, with the money the kids can buy accessories for their child’s online version of their pet, feed their pet, take him to the doctor, or even send them on vacation! What I love about Web Kinz is that the site is constantly updated with new challenges. I also love that kids learn a bit about the value of money, earning things, and trading. What I don’t like is that the stuffed animals are $15-20 each and the kids always want a new one.
#2 Club Penguin (Cost: Free and subscription service) This is Disney’s entry into social networking. There are two levels, paid and free. Our kids only use the paid component and seem to like it just fine. Unlike Web Kinz, a child’s character in Club Penguin is decidedly social. Within their virtual world the penguins can go to a series of different rooms. Our kids love taking their penguins to parties! I love that the kids can play against each other on seperate computers. Snow ball fights abound here in San Diego! As a parent, I like that Club Penguin is a bit more narrative based, too. I often will see Megan reading pages of text. And every day I catch her reading the site’s blog!
#3 HandiPoints (Cost: FREE Some pay upgrades available on Amazon.com) This is a really cool concept. Instead of games competing with parents to get stuff done, HandiPoints is built around the idea that playing games online is a reward. Our kids love to earn points online by doing chores around the house. Parents have their own login area where they set up their child’s task chart. Megan and Paul each have seperate tasks and they can login to their own area to check off their daily tasks and earn points. With the points you can buy stuff like furniture and clothes for your character.
#4 Moshi Monsters (Cost: 100% FREE) This kicks the cuteness factor way up! Our kids love playing with their monsters. Kids adopt and name a monster they help create. The more they play that game and earn rewards, the more control they get over their characters environment and personality. Mom and dad don’t really get the point of this one, but kids love it.
#5 Woogi World (Cost: Free and paid subscription) Our kids dig this site and it has a clear goal parents can understand. “Teaching kids internet safety, life values, and fun!” WW is run by a foundation with a specific goal for the site beyond commerce. So you may want to read up on it before letting your kids join. Individual kids can join, but you can also partner with schools so a whole classroom can create accounts to teach kids about safety. It’s a little like all the rest with a decidely educational and parental bend. Our kids like this one… and I can see teachers and homeschool parents endorsing this one as it is clearly the “safest” for kids, even if it isn’t the most fun.
What do your kids play? What sites are they hooked on? What sites should I have mentioned?