News, reviews & trends for fathers – a contemporary parent’s perspective.
We’ve given you the basic facts about virtual worlds, talked about some of the key concerns and broken down the 10 most important terms to know about virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. Now we’re ready to provide with you some recommendations. The following is a sampling of the most popular and best online virtual worlds and MMOs for kids. A few of these are our personal favorites, and a few we had no choice but to include based on their popularity. Certainly there are others that didn’t make our top 10 virtual worlds for kids list, so feel free to recommend others in the comments.
Animal Jam – Brought to you by National Geographic Kids, Animal Jam is aimed at early-elementary aged users and has an educational aspect to its minigames and social interactions. With cute, customizable animal characters, and events and happenings that change with the calendar, Animal Jam encourages players to come back again and again to experience different aspects of the game.
Cartoon Universe – This Internet universe (an online massively multiplayer virtual world built just for kids that exists and evolves 24/7) lets children connect with one another and investigate worlds inspired by popular series such as Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo, while enjoying safe and fun experiences in the company of other live players.
Clone Wars Adventures – Set in the Star Wars universe between Episodes II and III, Clone Wars Adventures is based on the style of the popular cartoon, and features daily activities, mini-games, captivating planets and more, all within the realm of the Star Wars universe. There are even appearances from Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin and more. Monthly memberships are available for $5.99 per month.
Club Penguin – Disney’s most popular online world, Club Penguin is a wintry-themed collection of mini-games for players that are designed to be fun and highly-replayable. Featuring a very appealing cartoon-style artwork, Club Penguin is designed for kids of all ages to enjoy, including very young ones. There are extensive moderated chat and friend-filtering options available, and due to the size of the game’s subscriber base, there are often many in-game charity drives that take place.
Fantage – Fantage is a virtual world for kids that provides customizable, cartoony avatars that can be used to participate in a variety of fun and educational activities. Some of the games in Fantage are designed to be enjoyed by multiple players, so enlisting your friend’s help is encouraged. Many schools around the country even use Fantage’s geography, logic and math games to enhance their curriculum.
FusionFall – FusionFall features characters and locations made famous by Cartoon Network’s colorful cast. Throughout the game, you’ll meet grown-up, evil and pint-sized versions of Ben 10, Dexter, the Powerpuff Girls, and more of the network’s top stars.
Space Heroes Universe – Designed by parents, Space Heroes Universe is designed to be extremely kid- and family-friendly, placing players in the role of adorably customizable space heroes who travel to various themed planets such as a forest world or icy planet, taking part in mini-games, solving mysteries and discovering rare items. Memberships provide enhanced features and access to additional items, and cost $6 per month or $54 per year.
Minecraft – Minecraft is the ultimate online sandbox, in which players create their own structures and communities out of various bricks, while working to avoid attacks by monsters. The simplicity of the game’s objectives and operations lead to a great complexity and diversity of user-generated creations. There’s a free sample version available on the site, or players can join the Minecraft world for a one-time fee of $26.95.
Moshi Monsters – Moshi Monsters invites players to adopt an exceptionally cute pet monster, who must be lavished with a combination of funny, gross and weird items to be kept happy. Players will rely heavily on the game’s in-game currency of Rox, playing daily mini-games to earn more money while connecting with friends. Moshi Monsters saw it’s popularity surge when if switched to a free-to-play model, and offers greatly enhanced memberships after players have already started for $5.95 per month or $49.95 per year.
Skylanders Universe – This online virtual world is sort of a companion to the wildly popular Skylanders video game franchise in which players use real-life figurine toys and place them on a “portal of power” to bring them to life within the game. The game has the same art style, music and other sounds as the games, but is mostly a fun place to play mini-games and play with your Skylanders in diffeerne tways. Skylanders Universe is free-to-play, provided you have purchased Skylanders toys, which can be input into the game using either a USB-attached Portal of Power or the unique ID code that comes in every package.
Wizard 101 – Become a student at the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts and learn the various aspects of magic to equip yourself for a battle against the evil Malistaire and his evil minions. Wizard 101 remains one of the most popular online virtual worlds, and offers memberships starting at $9.95 per month.
Teaching a kid how to use technology safely and effectively is kind of like teaching them how to walk to school on their own for the first time: It’s natural, it’s necessary, but gosh, it’s pretty unnerving. Regardless, the Internet and other technology is a huge part of the modern child’s world, just as much as television or automobiles. It’s up to parents to teach their kids how to use technology safely.
From encouraging the learning process from day one to teaching kids how to properly sort their inbox, here are five tips that’ll help you teach your children the finer points of tech safety.
Hands off the tech (parents) – Letting your kids experiment with technology is the first step in teaching them how to use it safely. Daniel Donahoo at the GeekDad Community encourages parents to let kids puzzle out tablets, phones, etc, for themselves—no matter how much they may want to intervene.
“My biggest tip is ‘don’t touch the tech,’” Donahoo writes. “When my children come and say, ‘Dad how do I?’ It may be insert an image, or download a new program, or fix an error…I come and talk to them about it, I ask questions, but I never do it for them…they learn by doing it themselves and finding the answers…the way I had to.”
Needless to say, you’ll at least want to ensure that all traces of jam and chocolate have been eliminated from your kids’ fingers before they start poking away.
Kids learn by example, so set a good one – If your kids walk in on you while you’re surfing, shall we say, less than reputable sites, they’re going to believe it’s perfectly okay for them to do the same thing. The shifty content on said sites isn’t the only thing you need to worry about, either: They can also be nests for viruses and malware.
It’s also important for you to set a good example by not using your cellphone or texting while driving. The last thing you need is a trip to the Emergency Department because Junior thought he’d ape dad and make a call while driving his BMX.
Start as early as possible – There are apps available for babies and toddlers. That tells you something about how easily kids catch on to new devices. It’s not a bad idea to initiate supervised play on tablets and computers. The earlier a kid manages to find his or her way around tech, the sooner he or she can learn how to use it safely while unsupervised.
Teach kids how to spot spam and frauds from real email – There are safe, walled email options for very young kids, but they’re eventually going to need to use something more functional. Unfortunately, with email comes spam. Lots of it. It’s important to teach kids how to sort scams from the real deal, especially when a cleverly-disguised notification asks for bank information, credit card information, or passwords to game sites.
Keep the computer, tablet, etc, in the living room – Parents have strong opinions on whether or not technology like TVs and computers should follow kids into their bedrooms. While the choice is ultimately up to mom and dad, keeping the family unit in a busy area of the house helps parents keep an eye on their kids’ surfing habits until they can be assured that Junior has learned some measure of online safety.
For more suggestions on helping your kids surf safely, visit:
When Why at How to Teach Your Kids about Social Media at TogetherFamily
Teaching Your Kids to Think Before they Click at ParentFurther
The holidays are a complicated time, but they don’t need to be. In fact, there are dozens of practical, affordable gifts you can give that are sleek, cool, and useful. The holidays are a great opportunity to load up a friend with household gadgets that he or she will actually use for years—or you can sneak in a common-sense treat for yourself, since you’ve earned the right to make your life a bit easier.
Here are the ten best household gadgets and appliances worth giving away for Christmas 2012.
Keurig Coffee Makers – When you’re slogging in the morning or in the middle of the day, there’s nothing quite as welcome as a cup of coffee. And if you can opt for real brewed coffee instead of some hot water poured over tarry black powder, all the better. Keurig coffee makers make perfect cups of coffee at home or at work, and it can also brew up some mean tea and hot chocolate.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Samsung’s Android-based tablet features a ten-inch screen, 2 gigs of RAM, a 1.4 GHz quad-core processer, and an “S-Pen” that allows for particularly delicate drawing and note-taking. It also has an SD card slot, a convenience that the iPad lacks. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is a great tablet to pass around the house for reading digital books, watching movies, doing work, and playing games. Even the Queen of England has one.
Vitamix Blender – Vitamix blenders are hardy, easy to use, and beloved across the restaurant industry. If you have a friend who adores convenience, there are even self-cleaning units to be bought.
Homz Hanging Sweater Dryer – This hanging sweater dryer isn’t really a gadget, but it’s still a clever and inexpensive way of saving money on your energy bill. The dryer has three tiers that lets you dry your heavy sweaters quickly and without the need for heat. It can be used to dry other articles of clothing, too. We won’t tell.
Bissell Lift-Off Deep-Cleaning System – Giving a rug a necessary deep-cleaning probably isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, which is why it pays to give a good friend the Lift-Off deep cleaning system from Bissell. This two-in-one appliance leaves rugs fresh and removes spots. It’s easy to use, and it’s portable.
Nest Self-Learning Thermostat – Nobody wants to think about how much it costs to heat their home, but saving money is always a good conversation-starter. The Nest self-learning thermostat actually gets a feel for the temperature you typically like to keep your house at, and at what time of the day. You can even control your house’s temperature from your phone. Nest is easy to install, and can save you up to 20% on your annual heating bill.
Sodastream – Hooray for pop. Double-hooray for keeping bottles and cans out of landfills. SodaStream lets fizzy drink enthusiasts make their own delicious beverages with a fraction of the amount of sugar and caffeine that’s in a can of Coke or Pepsi. Check out its new Sodastream Source model to see just how far the technology has come in terms of both ease of use and industrial design.
Food Savor Vacuum Sealer – Anyone who’s looking to reduce their food budget and their waistline will appreciate the Food Savor Vaccuum Sealer, which makes it easy to freeze and store meals for future use without having to worry about the frosty zap of freezer burn.
Solio Classic2 Battery Pack and Charger – The Solio Classic2 lets you charge pretty much anything, anytime, anywhere by harnessing the power of the sun. When you don’t have a place to plug in your electronics, this solar charger may wind up being your best pal.
Nostalgia Electrics Ice Cream Maker – Ice cream is a runaway favorite at dessert time, but the stuff you buy at the store tends to be filled with all kinds of weird ingredients (except for cream). Nostalgia Electrics’ ice cream maker churns all the ingredients for you the old-fashioned way.