Hi again, I've been working in my new role at GreatBritishKids.com for about a week now and so far it's been fantastic! I've been helping to monitor the site and researching into childrens' websites. Following on from my last post with regards to the safety of other websites for children including Social Networking sites that children may use (even though they're underage), I've been asked to review “Moshi Monsters” by a user on one of my other blogs.
This is a little background info on Moshi Monsters that I have pulled from their site:
“Moshi Monsters is a free online game for kids, where they may adopt a monster and look after it. Kids whose parents give us their approval can become 'users' on our site, and can adopt a Moshi Monster. Kids care for their monster by solving puzzle games, which earn their monster virtual rewards called Rox. Kids can spend Rox on virtual items like food, furniture and other treats and toys for their monster. Over time their monster will increase in level, be able to visit new locations in Monstro City, and earn all kinds of in-game rewards for playing. Monster owners will also be able to make friends with other owners and leave messages on their pages. “
I created an account with Moshi Monsters (which I have since deleted) to have a look around the site to see what sort of features they have, all I had to do was enter a username, an email address and my age (I even entered my age as 22). Next I had to click an activation link in my email address which gave me access to the website. Once activated, you can create a virtual monster (called a Moshi) to “adopt” and look after.
Once you have created your monster, you are then taken to your “house” where you can keep items you may buy in the online gift shop or bring your virtual friends around. You can meet friends by using the map on the side of the screen to navigate around the site. Navigating around the site was quite easy, you can enter places to meet other users (Moshi's) and request to add them as a friend. Once you have friends on the site you can send them messages on the pin board in their “houses”. (These messages are supposed to be filtered through their system, however users can choose to report anything they don't like to the moderating team who will review the message). Users can also post on forums and respond to each others posts. These also go though a review before being posted.
Disadvantages (in my opinion) of Moshi Monsters were:
- The site is very childlike, this may be what younger children are looking for generally, but children who like to act a little more grown up will end up going in search of other websites that older relatives or friends may be on.
- The website is supposed to only be available to a new user once parents have activated the link in their own email account, however if a child has their own account or has access to their parent's then they could easily gain access themselves without consulting anyone that they're signing up.
- Only basic features of the site are free. If a child wants to have the full features of the site, e.g. customising your character, having the ability to have more than 16 friends then they have to pay a fee (£4.95 one month subscription, 6 months £23.95 or yearly £29.95). This may not be suitable for households on low income or with more than one child.
- I saw a post on the forum from a user that was titled: “i havent eaten 4 17hrs!!!!!!!” and then commented on the post saying “i dont eat anything frm 5pm”, later on in the post after being questioned why they were posting that information, the user simply said “i jsut fink im fat but im thin thats the reason y i dont eat and im starving now but i wont eat”. Although I reported this comment to the “Moshi Monsters Team”, I do wonder what support that child will have, if their parents know about the problem, and what impact it will have on the other users on the site.
Advantages (in my opinion) of Moshi Monsters were:
- Moshi Monsters currently has 50 m users worldwide – and UK based Mind Candy is estimated to pull in over US$100m
- The colours & the fact children can look after a “pet” on the site will keep them entertained while possibly teaching them responsibility & educating them at the same time.
- The cheapest subscription to Moshi Monsters is only £4.95 a month & you can also buy game cards so kids could buy these out of their pocket money if they wanted to.
- Possibly a good way of introducing very small children how to use the computer/internet in a safe way.
How I think this site compares to GreatBritishKids.com:
- The GBK.com site has a more grown up feel to it, similar to other big social networking sites.
- Anyone under 18 can have access to the website for free however nobody will be able to communicate until the members have been verified (checked to see if they are who they say they are) via a third party, like a school/club leader or via a webcam. NOT by a parent.
- All users will have access to a panic button, so even though the site is moderated, if a child did feel unsafe, they could report their concerns to CEOP, The Samaritans or Childline. In the instance of the child above, they probably could have spoken to Childline to get help or contacted a Cyber Mentor on the website (Cyber Mentors are trained members of the site that have been given guidance on counselling and how to help other users that want to speak to someone).
A big thanks to those who have already been in touch and asked questions. I'm interested in your thoughts or opinions you may have on the site and also recommendations of other websites your kids may use, so I can review them next time too. Thanks!