Tiny tots introduced to Web 2.0


love-puppy.jpgSocial networking has already taken the Internet by storm, with virtually everyone these days having their own MySpace and Friendster accounts. I suppose this is but a natural evolution of our friends list on instant messaging programs back in the mid 90s, but to see social networking move away from computers and enter the corporeal world can be a pretty unnerving experience. Ganz has manufactured these plush toys which aim to usher elementary-level children into the world of Web 2.0 in a cute and non-invasive manner.

Known as the Webkinz, these stuff animals exist in both the real and virtual world, where the latter is shown as an avatar that is capable of interacting with others in an online community. Just like Beanie Babies, the Webkinz are up for grabs only for a limited amount of time before being retired, increasing the desirability. A quick check with eBay show that the retired Webkinz Cheeky Pet Dog and Cat are at a whopping starting bid of $3,000. In order not to miss out on this craze, the Love Puppy as shown on the right retails for a mere $99. They’re apparently pretty hot stuff at events where kids get together, such as Easter celebrations, church functions, and birthday parties.

While this is a noble idea, I can’t help but wonder whether there will be sufficient security measures put up in lieu of the many sexual predators who prey on the young and innocent these days. In any case, if you’re in for a spot of investing that does not involve power players on Wall Street, the Webkinz is a pretty cool place to start.

Source: Crave

7 reviews or comments

Heidi Renee Says: April 16, 2007 at 6:41 am

My own two have entered this craze in a paced and monitored way. I have looked over the website and found that it is filled with fun games (some a bit too much like mini gambling for my liking) and building homes and shopping for your pet with money you earn by doing chores and playing games.

Two things of note is that Ganz had NO IDEA the kind of server capacity they needed to maintain the popularity – this is truly a brilliant marketing idea – instant pets that don’t poop, eat or shed. My kids love them. It is frustrating for them though to regularly get the “servers down” error as they don’t understand all that is involved in providing this huge interactive online experience.

When Ganz introduced it’s “chat” capability the server didn’t last more than one hour before it was shut down and hasn’t been resurrected since. I’m sure it’s pouring much of it’s profits into maintaining and upgrading it’s online capacity as quickly as humanly possible.

I was very skeptical of the chat function and did the research so that I’m ready when the servers are back online – there are two forms of chat available – one is pre-written code lines like “I like your hat” or “Cool” kind of phrases that kids can’t change or interact with other than clicking on the phrase they want to “say”.

The second level is only accessible with parental permission and numbers, body parts, personal details and names are all blocked from the library of available words. Each word must be spelled correctly to get through the filters and it seems as if they have really put some thought and effort into this so as to keep the predators at bay. It can’t stop them from entering the chat area, but it can stop them from dialogging with your child in an inappropriate way.

I know that before I give my own children permission I will be “logging in” as them to navigate it before I give approval. Hope that might help other parents who are wondering about this too.

Helgi Says: April 16, 2007 at 6:45 am

Not dissimilar to what Neopets did then.

FastNetti Says: April 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm

I can’t believe we’re in an age where kids will have virtual pets that can interact with other virtual pets. It does scare me though that this could be a perfect way for predators to contact children. Parents need to be made aware of the dangers that their kids could be subject to online. I know NetSmartz411.org is a good resource for parents looking for ways to keep their kids safer online. Hopefully if these Webkinz become very popular, they won’t add any danger to the children online. I bet the virtual pets are a lot less expensive to take care then regular ones 😉

pumpsy Says: March 5, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I believe that if they rebuilt parts of the system after dissembling the whole system it would quite possible for the Ganz workers would not only be able to have the system running in full order but also require all children to have to register again and therefore have a total census and also be able to approximate whether their subscribers have either increased or dissapated.

pumpsy Says: March 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

If you do not agree with my statements than deal with it.

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