Click to Buy
The Webkinz are coming! Like hundreds of other fad toys before them, parents are hearing more about Webkinz these days, not from the news, but from their kids on the playground. Webkinz are yet another, not especially cute, plush animal. They come in all varieties, including ponies, pandas, monkeys, unicorns, and dogs. Manufactured by Ganz, the Webkinz retail for around $14-$15, when you can find them. What makes them different though is their “secret code” ID that is imprinted on their collar tag. The ID gives the owner a free year of access to Webkinz World, a site created just for kids. Webkinz World has games, contests and a virtual version of the their real stuffed animal. It also includes a “social networking” functionality that is safe for kids because they are limited to pre-set phrases to communicate.
Much like a Tamagochi, the hit toy a few years back for high tech kids, the online Webkinz pets use artificial intelligence to simulate living creatures. Kids actually report back that the pets are “kind of alive.” If you had or have a tamagochi in the house, you probably wondered whether it was good for the child, when you weren’t scheming how to end its endless beep-beeping.
Is a webkinz like a pet? Should you let your child get in on this phenomenon?
- The Webkinz fluffy animal is not a real pet and doesn’t shed, eat food, bite, bark, wet, need a walk, or inconveniently die.
- Webkinz world may be more attractive than “shoot ‘em up” computer games.
- The child’s imagination and creativity is limited by the software.
- Danger of online community taking the place of face-to-face play date interaction.
- Commercialization – Webkinz is a commercial toy, as you would expect.
- The parent should be aware that the purchase of the toy only includes a one year access to the site.
All things considered, dad may find this to be a fairly safe way to teach basic computer involvement to a small child and relatively harmless. At the same time, dads should make sure they feel comfortable with the Webkinz stories and that they are aligned with the family’s values.
There’s nothing that says that game play is better or worse when done on a computer versus on the floor with a board game.
– Paul Banas