While watching the news the other evening they touched briefly on some children’s websites that caught my attention due to the fact my stepdaughter visits them sometimes. There were about six websites listed, three of which I know she has been on – www.barbiegirls.com, www.webkinz.com and www.clubpenguin.com.
First the news broadcaster brought up the point that the main idea on these websites was buying. Kids could play games, contests and other things to try and earn points. With the points they could buy various items. These websites target kids in the 5 to maybe 14 year old age range and the biggest incentive is to buy items. Is this a good thing to be teaching our children to spend, spend, spend? In today’s world it has already come to that. But what kind of values are we setting for our kids?
Then the news broadcaster starting talking about how the websites were free for kids to play on, but they were putting membership fees on them as well. With the “free play” kids could do several things, but their character was plainly dressed, their room was not furnished and such. There were lots of enticing items and areas that kids could not access without having their parents buy a membership for them.
My husband and I have monitored my stepdaughter on these websites briefly to see what they were about. She used to ask for Webkinz all time so she could put them online on her account. She has also pulled codes off of Barbie items in the past to use them on the internet as well. It ‘s been awhile since she has visited them at our house and we never purchased a membership for her; although she had asked for one.
After the news was over I decided to check out these three websites again. Now I did not join and see what the games and such were about, but I noticed the membership right off the bat on their homepages. So I clicked on the membership on each of the three websites.
At www.barbiegirls.com there was the basic “free” play and then there was the V.I.P. “membership” play. When you become a V.I.P. it said there was exclusive gear such as hairstyles, makeup, accessories, clothes, furniture, pets, pet accessories, etc to choose from. To become a V.I.P. a parent had to pay for a membership which broke down to this:
1 month – $5.99
3 months – $17.97
6 months – $35.94
Next I visited www.clubpenguin.com and found that you could play, but with a membership you could “create more, explore more, play more, access more and celebrate more.” Their membership broke down like this:
1 month – $5.95
6 months – $29.95
12 months – 57.95
Finally I checked out www.webkinz. It advertised a “Deluxe membership.” With this you could get exclusive clothing, have special access and play deluxe activities. You also gained more epoints to spend with the purchase of a membership and you received a hat in the mail. Their membership consisted of:
1 month – $2
3 months – $15
6 months – $25
annual – $45
Are the memberships that important to kids to have their parents shell out membership fees for exclusive items? The girl they interviewed seemed to think so, but her mother had a different idea. Her mother had told her she could buy the membership with her own allowance money. The girl didn’t like that idea very much. It would take a lot of her allowance money and she wasn’t sure about that.
I was just surprised that the main concept of these websites was targeting kids to earn points and then spend them. What kind of values does that teach? To spend what you earn. Now days we are exposed to this all the time, parents and kids.