What It Is:
Webkinz.com (or “Webkinz World”) is an online extension of the Webkinz stuffed animals toys. Once purchased, a toy has a secret code on it that can unlock a virtual version of that pet in Webkinz World.
What It Does:
Webkinz World is a virtual play place online where an avatar of your child’s stuffed animal resides. Your child can feed them, build a home for them, furnish the home, “purchase” clothing, and many other things. Your child earns credit for these things through playing games and receiving “Kinz Cash” that they can then spend in a store.
Webkinz World also offers paid upgraded accounts that allow kids more access to other parts of the site.
Would My Child Want It?:
The site is geared toward kids who are old enough to read but young enough to still be entranced by its simple game play and easily earned rewards, and who would be pleased with the novelty of seeing their stuffed toy come to life, so to speak, in a virtual way. They would especially be interested in it if their friends or classmates are using the site.
Where Can It Be Used?:
It can be used on Webkinz.com, as well as through a mobile app.
What Should I Watch Out For?:
- Webkinz World does offer the capability for users to “chat” with one another, but these chats are limited to choosing a pre-selected phrase from a drop-down menu.
- The site has a complicated interface that can be baffling to parents until one takes the time to learn it.
- Some of the Webkinz creatures within the site have mythological or pagan origins. This might be a red flag to people of faith.
What Are The Positives?:
- Because the site functions on the long-term thinking of building a habitat for a virtual pet, it can help some kids learn how to work toward goals and achieve them one step at a time.
- The Kinz Cash aspect can help teach kids the value of earning and spending money—an early economic lesson.
- It can be a fun pastime.
- You don’t have to purchase a Webkinz toy to join the site.
What Are The Negatives?:
- There are many advertisements for other Ganz products (Ganz is the parent company of Webkinz).
- There are also ads for other products outside the Webkinz platform; clicking on these will redirect your children to sites outside of Webkinz.com. Some of these ads may have fantastic or suggestive elements, or be role-playing-type games that are far too mature for the Webkinz target audience.
- Kids can spend too much time within Webkinz World, creating something close to addiction.
- Free accounts have limitations; you must pay to upgrade to better features.
What We Think:
Though some of the ad content can be mildly distressing, on the whole Webkinz.com is a fairly innocuous way for your child to spend time online. Just be sure to check in on them frequently, and make sure you know their username and passwords (this is not so much so that you can check their activity on the site and more so that you can train them early in the understanding that you will expect to know this information when they’re older and more active online).