Kids find out stuff way before we do. By we, I mean parents. What are they finding out now? Webkinz. Yes you heard it right Webkinz. Do they have anything special to do with the internet? I guess you could say they do. Like the hundred or so fad toys before them, Webkinz are yet another. They are not specially cute, but they are plush.
They come in all varieties, including pandas, ponies, unicorns, dogs and my daughters favourite, monkeys. They are made by Ganz. Talk about rare. The retail for around $14-15 as of writing but you try to find them! Popular isn’t the word for it. Do they talk and walk? No. What makes them special is their ‘secret code’ – an ID that is imprinted on their collar tag. The ID gives the owner a FREE year of access to Webkinz World.
Webkinz World is a site specially created for kids. Webkinz World has games, contests and a ‘virtual’ or cartoon version of their real stuffed animal. Just like facebook or myspace it also includes a ‘social networking’ element that is safe for kids because they’re specifically limited to pre-set phrases to say.
Remember the Tamagochi and Furbees? For those not in the know – they were a hit a few years back for kids and some adults alike. Much like these the online Webkinz pets use artificial intelligence to simulate living breathing creatures. Kids have actually started to report back that they consider their pet to be ‘alive’… If you ever had a Tabagochi or a Furbee in the house, you are probably wondering whether it was healthy for a child along with plotting how to do away with the endless beeping!
So, my opinion…
Is Webkinz like having a real pet? Should you let your child get into the Webkinz fad?
One advantage is that it isn’t real. Don’t get me wrong – I love pets. These ones don’t shed hair, bite, bark, piddle, chew, eat, need a walk, need looking after while you are on vacation. They also stay alive as long as your child wants it to 😉
Another advantage is that the Webkinz World is a safe environment where no one gets out a gun and shoots or a sword and chops!
Disadvantages include restricting your childs creativity and imagination by the software.
There is a danger that the online community will take the place of face-to-face interaction.
Difficult to get hold of – Try buying a Webkinz on eBay – they are very difficult to secure.
Without doubt Webkinz are commercially driven. Will they want more as they tire of their monkey, unicorn or dog?
What happens after the first year? You lose site access – do you have to buy another Webkinz?
What I would say is have a go online first before you let your child – does it fit your family values? My daughter thinks so.