Quick primer for the non-parents: A Webkinz is a stuffed animal for kids that has a code that unlocks a web world for the stuffed animal online where kids supposedly learn to take care of their virtual pet.
My biggest complaint about Webkinz? It’s passed off as an online educational experience for my kid but it’s teaching them everything I don’t want them to know about being online.
So far, in two weeks of Webkinz, my kids have learned how to do the following:
- Purchase things like clothes for virtual pets online and check out in with a web shopping cart
- How to get more money or Webkinz cash to be able to purchase more things for the virtual pet online and use the shopping cart some more
- What a 10 minute per day time limit feels like
Webkinz has helped me find my favorite feature on my iPhone - the timer. I set the timer, walk away and when the iPhone goes off, the kids know it’s time to close up shop.
I say “close up shop” because that’s all Webkinz is - a shop. In all seriousness, my daughter spent the last five minutes trying to decide if it was a good deal or not to sell an aqua gem for 48 Webkinz cash thingys to this gem dealing dog guy that tries to swindle the kids out of gems they find while playing games.
Oh yeah, the games. That’s the other thing it teaches kids - how to play games online. It doesn’t teach them anything within the game, only that the point of the game is to get more Webkinz cash. My son (4 years old) actually said, “I don’t have much money left, I need to go play some more games so I can get some money.”
He’s right. That’s the shame of it.
Contrast if you will Webkinz and the mindless online shopping cart experience with something like GCompris, the free educational software suite bundle with Ubuntu. Things my kids learned using GCompris:
- How to pick out the shape of French Guiana
- How to place French Guiana and every other country in South America in the proper place on a map
- How to spell French Guiana and the capitol of French of Guiana
- How to do simple math like Papillion when he was stuck in a penal colony off the coast of French Guiana
Thank you GCompris, and thank you Webkinz. For what? For helping decide early what the kids are not getting for Christmas - more Webkinz.