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!
You furry friends in Webinz World
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.
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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