Webkinz - Good for your Kids?

In case you hadn't heard the news, Webkinz are the latest toy craze sweeping the nation. Toy crazes are an interesting phenomenon, causing parents to stand in lines for hours, stampede each other, and, at times, act like crazed lunatics. Back in the 80's there were Cabbage Patch Kids, and every kid just had to have one. More recently, Beanie Babies and Elmo and Pokemon have also hit the toy craze scene. And then there were Webkinz.

Combining internet technology with cute and cuddly stuffed toy animals, Webkinz come along with their own online virtual world. First introduced in 2005, Webkinz also come with with a secret ID code. This secret code allows you to "adopt" your Webkinz online, create and maintain a home for them, buy clothes using "Kinzcash", play games with them, and chat with other pet owners. Yes, chat with other pet owners. "Clubhouse Chat" is the name given to online chat on the Webkinz website. The target audience for Webkinz ranges from kids as little as preschool on up to teenagers, or "tweens". Webkinz pet owners spend hours online, interacting with their pet in an online world.

There are around 60 different types of Webkinz, some of them include Webkinz Panda, Cowsy the Webkinz, and Webkinz Alley Cat (who looks a little bit mangy to me, I guess this is intentional). The next Webkinz to come out, Webkinz Clydesdale, has been delayed and is expected to be out in stores in June or July. Most online stores sellling Webkinz are taking pre-orders for the Clydesdale.

So are Webkinz a good or bad toy for your kid? With some American children already having issues with obesity, the thought of a child spending hours on a computer at a time does not sound very promising. While the child is online, they are sedentary, and isolated from real world socializing and playing. As well, they are exposed to the potential threat of online predators. As nice and clean as these Webkinz toys appear, and as great as the Webkinz site looks, you cannot wholly control what your child is exposed to online. Especially when two way communications, like chat, enters the picture.

Good or bad, it's hard to say not being a parent or in the age demographic targeted by this toy. That being said, I'm having a hard time finding the good. You decide.

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