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by Ronald A. Rowe | August 27th, 2010 | Product reviews

Webkinz World is a website in which you can ‘adopt’ a pet (represented in the real-world by a plush toy) that lives and moves within the virtual world. Webkinz eat, sleep, and play within the online realm of www.webkinz.com. This world is completely safe for the young ones, with interaction among the denizens of Webkinz World limited to preset phrases and no potential for the dissemination of your child’s personal information.

Webkinz World offers a host of games for young boys and girls, but it also offers something more: an arena for risk-free life lessons. Children must earn the currency of this virtual world, Kinzcash, by playing games or completing various tasks. Only when they have earned enough Kinzcash can they purchase items such as clothing, furniture, and food from the Webkinz store. Suddenly, my son, Max is faced with the responsibility for budgeting his Kinzcash amongst the needs of his three Webkinz: Blue Lou the hippo, Joe the tiger, and Eagle the frog. (Don’t ask; I didn’t name them.)

Much like in real life, my son eschews the concept of saving and seeks the instant gratification of buying what he can afford now. At Wal-Mart, if I allow the boy to purchase whatever cheap toy fits his budget now, he ends up with a piece of junk that will soon be discarded, while getting no closer to purchasing the higher end toy he really wants. In Webkinz World, the price of such a poor decision is less significant due to the ease of earning more Kinzcash and the ability to resell unwanted items.

So Max is free to try and fail, the safety net of Webkinz World minimizing the pain of buying ANOTHER sofa when he really should save up for a new room in which to put it. In the same way, forgetting to feed our real-life cat has dire consequences, but Blue Lou has been known to go weeks without being fed and has endured. Such a lack of penalty, if unchecked, could be detrimental to the development of a young person’s sense of responsibility. But utilized as a part of a conscientious parent’s tutelage, Webkinz World can be one more arrow in our parenthood quiver. And in the real world, we need all the arrows we can get.

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