Are Webkinz Safe For Your Kids When They're Online?

Question: My kids love their Webkinz toys and collect them - they each have several of them, and they play with them online a lot. Are they safe though, or should I be concerned?

Answer: My kids have tons of Webkinz too, and so do all of their friends. They even gave one to their 5th-grade teacher for a Christmas present this year!

Webkinz are completely safe, and are one activity that I am completely comfortable with my kids doing online. Believe me, I checked it out thoroughly and had them walk me through the things you can do online with their Webkinz.

Webkinz are fluffy stuffed animals that come with a unique ID on each one's collar tag. That ID lets them log into the Webkinz web site where they can do fun things like play games with their pets, buy their pets toys, and feed their pets.

They also can interact with other Webkinz owners in a controlled instant messaging chat environment. They can initiate chat sessions or reply to IM messages, but they're only allowed to select from a list of predefined topics.

There's no free-handed typing allowed, so there's no need to worry about exposing your kids to inappropriate adult conversations.

Millions of other parents agree. Ganz - the makers of Webkinz - claims that more than 2 million units have been sold to retailers and 1 million users have registered on the Webkinz site.

My kids have fallen in love with Webkinz. They frequently come up and tell me what they did with their pet online, what they learned, what they bought, what they taught their pet. It's as close to really owning a pet that I have seen yet.

You'll probably find that Webkinz are already sold out at your local toy store, but you can still get them online. Amazon has a good selection of Webkinz, and they're also available at Jake's Dog House. In fact, here's a coupon for 15% off your Webkinz order from Jake's Dog House (just use code first15 during checkout).

I have never been more impressed with a toy as much as I am with Webkinz by Ganz (even more than Nintendogs). They're little stuffed animals that each come with a unique ID that can be entered on to create a personalized and secure pet management account.

I asked my kids what they liked to do the most with their Webkinz, and here's what they said:

"I like to dress my pet."

"I like to play games with my pet, and she tells me when he gets tired and yawns so I know to let her rest for a while."

"I like to play games with my pet and win money and cool stuff for my pet's room."

As a dad, I love the interactivity they built into these pets, and the fun that they have with them online. But I also dig that they actually get tired after a while and you have to let them rest.

That's like having a built-in timer feature, which helps ensure that my kids don't spend too much time in front of the computer screen.

Webkinz are definitely safe for your kids, and will give them hours of fun online performing a wide variety of educational and entertaining activities.