The popular online destination for kids, Webkinz, drives continued revenue by granting Webkinz pet purchasers a limited access license to the online Webkinz world. My son received the following in-world message in Webkinz recently:

Account Renewal Reminder: 30 days:

This note is just a reminder that your account is set to expire in 30 days on Oct 11th, 2009. You can renew your account and continue playing in Webkinz World by purchasing a new Webkinz or Lil’ Kinz toy and adopting it at the adoption center.

As an extra bonus, if you renew early, we will give you an extra 3 months on your account – a full 15 months of fun!

Have fun,

You furry friends in Webinz World

Purchase a new webkinz or say goodbye to WebKinz Online

The closing, instead of reading “Have fun,” could also have read “Get out your parent’s wallet!”

Club Penguin, which my kids also enjoy playing, requires paid memberships for players to buy and keep items in their igloos, but kids (and adult players) can keep playing for free even when/if their membership expires.

Club Penguin - Alexander's Igloo 21 Sept 2009

Webkinz is a good topic to bring up when discussing media literacy with younger students. Students (and parents) should know that the main priority and focus of a site like Webkinz is making money — in this case, encouraging young people to buy and keep buying Webkinz animals. The same goes for Club Penguin, even though the site’s free play policies are different. The Walt Disney Company wouldn’t have purchased Club Penguin otherwise. These facts might not be surprising to adults, but they are definitely not obvious to many children. Media literacy education is essential.

Temple University’s Media Education Lab resources on Advertising Literacy and teaching media literacy are excellent to use in this regard. They have added a resource page for “Using Voice Thread for Media Literacy Education”, but as of this writing the VoiceThread example links are not working. (I’m sure they’ll be fixed soon!) “Very Sticky” is one of the sample VoiceThreads listed on the page.

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5 Responses to Purchase a new webkinz or say goodbye to WebKinz World Online

  1. Hi Wes –

    My kids just saw your post as I was looking at my Facebook feed. Henry is almost 7 and Julia is almost 11. Julia wanted to know how do you know that Webkinz is about making money; she was surprised to hear this as I haven’t spent much time, believe it or not, discussing the economics of such sites. Henry thought the whole money thing “wasn’t nice”. We want to know what sort of activities your kids recommend that don’t involve paying lots of money?

    Thanks,

    Lucy Gray

  2. Alvin Trusty says:

    Here’s my favorite Webkinz story.

    http://www.trustyetc.com/trustyblog/2007/09/23/know-your-limits/

    We just went through the “renewal” process here too. Fortunately one of the kids has a pile of pets with “unused” codes. We should be good for a few more years.

    Have you seen Toybots? Think Teddy Ruxpin with a wifi connection.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Alvin: That is a great story! Thanks for sharing the link. Also thanks for sharing Toybots– no, I hadn’t seen it previously.

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    Lucy: I talked with my son and wife briefly about your question last night– It seems our kids are spending most of their time on websites that are commercial. My youngest does play with TuxPaint frequently, which is free / open source, but Club Penguin, Webkinz, Travian, and GirlsGoGames are their favorite destinations. Starfall is also a favorite for my 6 year old. I have their common web destinations linked from this page of our family learning blog.

    What about your family? Do you all have other favorite online destinations or games which are non-commercial?

  5. Hi again Wes –

    My kids like similar sites and are into Cartoon Network etc. My son has found Lego Star Wars videos on YouTube (he’s six!?!?!) and I’ve found that I need to vet them first a bit.

    Of course, my taste in educational web sites differs quite a bit from theirs… I bookmark stuff for them here:
    http://delicious.com/elemenous/forjulia
    http://delicious.com/elemenous/forhenry
    http://www.diigo.com/list/elemenous/bookmarks-for-henry
    http://www.diigo.com/list/elemenous/bookmarks-for-julia

    I have an idea. How about if we start a blog with our kids on digital stuff that they like? They could review and converse with each other about stuff??

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