Would you pay $7 for a bagel? Of course not! Your 7-year old probably does all the time! Not in real life – but in the world of Webkinz. Webkinz are stuffed animals, each of which comes with a secret code that gives the toy an identical online persona. Then kids log on to Webkinz.com, register their new stuffed animal/pet – and start playing. Each pet registered gets $2,000 in Kinz Cash that can be spent on virtual goods, like pet clothing – food - or a pool for their virtual home. The prices are crazy – like $4 for a bottle of water, or $475 for a lime green dining chair. That’s why a lot of kids have multiple WebKinz pets – so they can keep getting that influx of Kinz Cash. Kids need to take care of their Webkinz pets or they’ll get sick - their snouts turn green and they need medicine – which costs Kinz Cash to get.
Kids spend hours on this site daily caring for their pets – and according to Newsweek magazine, some experts say it’s a good thing.
Kids learn lessons, like how to budget their Kinz Cash to buy the things they want. They’re also learning the responsibility of taking care of something on a daily basis. Will these online lessons translate into real world lessons? Jon Gallo, a psychotherapist who writes about kids and money says, not exactly. One problem is that most kids aren’t responsible for any of their own real world purchases. He suggests, as a start, kids should be buying the Webkinz stuffed animals with their own money. Too many parents give their kids an allowance, but don’t make them use it to buy the things they want. Gallo says parents should provide their kids with all the necessities – but anything extra should come from the allowance. That means the stuff they beg you for whenever you’re in a store together, like an ice cream cone or the Miley Cyrus CD. Gallo also says, talk to your kids about how they’re budgeting their Kinz Cash for what they want online – and how that translates into real life purchases. If they can’t keep their WebKinz pet from getting sick from neglect, definitely don’t cave into their pleas for a real life puppy.