WebKinz 101

webkinzFour things every parent should know about the wildly popular WebKinz pets and online social network.

WebKinz: More Than the Average Stuffed Animal

WebKinz plush toys come with secret codes that allow your child to log into a Web site where they can play games and send messages to other kids with Webkinz, while caring for virtual versions of the pet they purchased. Just like the Beanie Babies craze in the '90s, most kids want to collect as many Webkinz as possible, and the little virtual pets keep them visiting Webkinz.com day after day.

The pets range from bears to frogs, puppies to pandas and can be found at Walgreens, Hallmark and most major toy stores for about $15. Each animal comes with its own unique code, which allows access to the Webkinz site for one year.

WebKinz Require Constant Care Online

Each online version of Webkinz must be cared for, almost like a real animal.

To do this, kids log onto the site and feed their pet apples, make sure it has a bed to sleep in and they can even have their own books to read. If the pet is neglected for several days it will grow ill, indicated by a green nose and an ice bag on its head. Players can contract an in-game veterinarian by going to the Thing To Do tab located on the bottom right of the screen and click on Dr. Quack's clinic and he will help your bet get well at no charge.

Kids Must Earn 'KinzCash' to Outfit Their Pets

New players start out with a set amount of "KinzCash," currency used on the site, which can be used to buy virtual items for their pet. Players earn more KinzCash by playing the mini games on the site, which are split up by age group. Games include puzzle games and re-imagined versions of popular arcade games such a Pac-man (featuring a pig running from pigs). More Webkinz cash can also be earned by feeding and chatting with your oen pet online through set chat preferences, such as "Are you hungry?", "Would you like to play?". Once players have saved up enough KinzCash, they can visit the online W Shop once inside the Webkinz world to buy everything from sofas and beds to basketballs and cupcakes.

WebKinz Has 'Safe' Chat, but Still Requires Supervision
Webkinz does not have an official ESRB rating, like many online games, but they've tried to make the environment as safe as possible for children. No numbers can be passed along through chat, and all expletives have been completely banded. Parents should still monitor their child's interactions, however, some users have worked out ways to get around the limited text options.

Webkinz is so outrageously popular that some schools have banned students from playing because it has caused too much distraction. With a small amount of monitoring, however, this can still be a great virtual entertainment experience that includes fun mini-games and teaches kids how to care for and interact with their online pets.
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