Monday, February 05, 2007

Casino for Kids?

Recently, my daughter received a Webkinz stuffed animal as a present. It's not much different than any other stuffed animal you can buy, except for one thing. Webkinz has developed a web site that provides a virtual world in which you and your stuffed animal can interact. OK, so far, it sounds innocent enough. My problem with Webkinz is the concept of KinzCash and how kids can "earn" KinzCash.

KinzCash is simply currency that kids can use on the Webkinz web site to purchase items for their virtual stuffed animal to use in the Webkinz online world. Kids can buy rooms for their stuffed animal to live in. They can buy food to feed their stuffed animal. What virtual stuffed animal is complete without a cool outfit to wear? You get the point. So far, so good. I still don't have a problem with this part of Webkinz.

My problem with Webkinz is with some of the ways that kids can "earn" KinzCash. There are a few activities that, to me, are harmless enough. I don't have a problem with trivia contests or games of skill. Webkinz also offers games of chance that are too similar to what real (and online) casinos offer. For instance, there's a game that is essentially a video slot machine. There's another game called "Wheel of Wow" that is a "wheel of fortune" type of game, where you spin the wheel win a prize. Now, Webkinz does limit the number of times a kid can play each game per day; however, most people, myself included, would be in favor of rules to protect kids from visiting online casions. Why is Webkinz any different?

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