Bonding with Webkinz

Posted in Mom Stuff
by Alicia Castelli

Webkinz mania has finally hit my children.
I’ve been managing to avoid them for some time now, but when the kids start school my influence takes a back seat to their peer group. And their peer group loves Webkinz and the virtual world online Webkinz owners create.
My oldest, Ryan, got his first two Webkins while in second grade, set up his virtual world and got bored after a few weeks. It wasn’t until recently he tried to go back to that world that he learned he had to buy a new Webkin because the original account is only good for one year. Now that it was denied him, he was suddenly desperate to check on his pets.
To his credit, he used the last bit of his own money and bought a small Webkin for himself and for his brother and sister. I was very proud of him for that.
Oddly, it’s my middle child, Ethan, who’s even more obsessed than Ryan with his online pet. Ethan even used the little bit of money he’d saved up to buy a second Webkin.
We have a pet cat, but she’s skittish and never makes an appearance until the kids are in bed. Maybe it’s that lack of interaction that makes these online pets so appealing. At least they’re keeping up with a few basic computer skills.
Checking on their Webkinz is the first thing the boys want to do every morning and the last thing they do before they go to bed. It’s also something they do periodically throughout the day. Ethan absolutely loves to buy things with Kinzcash and send them to Ryan’s pets along with email messages. Ethan can’t quite read fluently yet so he sent Ryan 10 birthday messages one day, but you get the idea.
They buy rooms, furniture, clothing, food and groom these virtual animals. There are meters keeping track of a pet’s hunger, happiness and love. These meters are taken very seriously by the boys. Thankfully, my youngest, Keira doesn’t seem too interested in this aspect of Webkinz ownership just yet because at 3 years old, she can only use the computer with an adult’s help.
Which brings me to my only complaint. There are three computers in our house – one for me, one for my husband and one upstairs for the boys. When home, my husband and I are periodically on the computer. Lately, I can’t get near mine. Of the boys is almost always on it checking on their Webkinz because the other one is on the upstairs computer doing the same thing. Apparently, the pets can also “visit” each other and play games together which requires two different computers.
Obviously, we’re going to have set some time limits on this, but I do love to watch them engrossed as they brush their pet’s teeth, wash their faces and put it them bed. Ethan, in particular, talks to his pets and giggles as he sends yet another “Happy Birthday!” email to his brother.
If it helps them be a little more aware of pet care and helps them learn to navigate a computer keyboard and the Internet, then fine. If they’re willing to work around the house for extra money to buy another Webkin, that’s even better. Mostly, I just like to see them talking excitedly to each other about their respective Webkinz worlds, the amount of Kinzcash they’ve saved up and which games earn them the most coins.
Because they’re talking to each other and helping each other rather than squabbling and trying to kill each other. And that is priceless.

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