If you have a son or daughter around six or seven, you may have already heard about Club Penguin. Club Penguin is a virtual world (think Second Life) for little kids. Kids choose and name a penguin character to act as their avatar as they move around the Club Penguin site and play games to earn coins. These coins can be exchanged for clothing and other items. The site says it’s for kids 8-14. There are 700,000 paying members worldwide and over 5,000,000 visitors per month.
Club Penguin is touted as a safe place for kids to play on line, and unlike some similar sites, it does have some safety features built in. For example, Club Penguin allows parents to set up one of two levels of security. One level only allows Penguins to talk to each other using a pre-set list of words and phrases. Even the “standard safe chat” uses a filter to make sure no inappropriate language used. Additionally, the site uses “spies” to monitor messages between Penguins.
Dads should be aware of several things.
1. Membership looks absolutely free at the beginning. You’ll see no indication of a price tag as you enter in your personal information. You’ll only become aware of the cost when your child asks you to pony up $5.95 month for extra “upgrades” (or if you dig into the parents information area). Upgrades include penguin accessories and clothing, igloo decorations and the ability to adopt more “Puffles,” the Penguin’s pet. On the other hand, the membership charge makes it possible to run the site without advertising (so far).
2. Disney recently purchased Club Penguin. There may be more tie-ins and promotions for Disney products in the future. Given the $700 million price tag, Disney clearly sees a potential to leverage the site and its membership beyond the current scope.
3. Club Penguin is basically a site for on-line game playing. Dads should be aware of the content and spend some time on the site and limit time on the computer accordingly.
Club Penguin is a good site for young kids to spend time playing safely on line. At the same time, parents need to monitor online and offline computer usage. We recommend setting up the computer in a public area in the house so you can easily monitor your kids’ internet traffic. You can use a Mac, with its Parental Control settings, or use filtering software to make sure your kids don’t end up in the wrong place on the internet, either intentionally or by accident.