Times have changed. In the early 70’s my network was limited to about an acre of grass and trees with a couple of neighborhood kids on either side. Things are different for my son the tween. While he has plenty of room to run around and companions with whom to run, his social network of choice involves a virtual world of fuzzy avatars, online pseudo-gambling, and unlimited virtual wall décor. He’s a Webkinz junkie. It was evident during our spring break vacation when hogged my Powerbook as a means of feeding and keeping Luke the platypus alive.
Beyond the sheer innovation of linking stuffed animals with an online community, it’s remarkable to me that my son is thriving in a virtual world. For me online social networks are the new thing. For him it’s second nature. But as the moderators of his world we routinely pull him back to reality. And fortunately, scooters, wiffle ball and inspecting squished frogs on the street haven’t gone out of style yet.
Among the most valuable lessons learned: Divulge your password when hanging out with the neighborhood kids and your Webkinz earnings may very well be gone in the morning.
For more on Webkinz obsessive behavior read I've Become the Parent I Hate at Ty's Toy Box Blog.