Beliefnet
Movie Mom

Webkinz is the most popular online site for children. If they buy a Webkinz toy, they can log onto the site where a virtual version of the toy will appear. Any real-life accessory they buy will show up on the site as well. They can create environments for the toys online and interact with the toys and each other. It can be a creative and satisfying experience and teach them some rudimentary programming skills. I do not approve of the way it keeps kids coming back by requiring them to continuously care for the pet if it gets “sick” because they forget to feed it, but I had considered it a fairly benign activity — until, without letting parents know, they began to accept advertising. According to the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, “Webkinz, the most visited virtual world for children in the United States, is currently promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks. In addition to banner ads, the site is encouraging young users to actively engage with the movie by purchasing specially designed chipmunk costumes and food for their virtual pets. Bee Movie – a film that partnered with McDonald’s, General Mills and Brachs and has dozens of licensed products – was promoted in a similar way.” The CCFC has set up a site for parents who want to complain to Webkinz CEO Howard Ganz.

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