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By now, every parent with young children knows about Club Penguin and Webkinz, the amazingly successful online playgrounds where kids can play games, chat and nurture their virtual pets. Since their arrival a few years ago – and particularly since Disney’s acquisition of Club Penguin for $700 million in 2007 – there have been dozens of imitators. So much so, that trade group Virtual Worlds Management estimates that there are now over 200 youth-oriented “virtual worlds” either already launched or being prepared for market.

Into this highly competitive space comes SuperSecret.com, a virtual world that launched last week. So what makes SuperSecret different from all the other kid-targeted web sites? Well, for one, it’s squarely targeted at 9-13 year-old tweens, a group that is apparently becoming increasingly sophisticated in its online interactions. “Kids who are ready for more than Club Penguin and Webkinz but are too young for World of Warcraft or MySpace," according to the SuperSecret launch press release.

In fact SuperSecret takes the idea of growing up and makes it the central theme of the SuperSecret world. You start your SuperSecret life at age 10 and earn “Age Points”, with the ultimate goal of getting older. (Perhaps they can produce a similar game for adults where you get younger. Now there’s a moneymaker!) At the present time, kids can progress until they are 15 but new birthdays will be coming soon.

Birthdays come with exciting privileges like owning a virtual pet (at age 11) or decorating a dorm room (12). The catch – and the way the site makes money – is that kids can start play for free but if they want to be able to grow past the age of 12, it will cost a subscription of $4.95 per month or $19.95 for 6 months to keep playing.  

Inside SuperSecret, there are dozens of "environments" to explore. The site is easy to navigate but not too simple, and the look and feel is colorful but not too cartoony. As you wander, you come upon objects to find and collect, mini-games to play, and in-game characters with missions for you to accomplish, all of which earn you Spenders, the in-game currency.

You can redeem your Spenders at numerous shops to customize your character's look with new clothes, hairstyles, and accessories; buy gifts for your in-game friends; decorate your dorm room; and buy pets. To keep track of your real-life friends in the game, you get a "cell phone" that shows where they are within SuperSecret.

The parental controls and monitoring software are thorough and well thought out. Players can report and block other players, and chatting is only by script unless parents grant specific permission for unscripted “super” chat, which is also filtered and monitored.

SuperSecret currently seems oriented toward girls (shopping, wardrobes, cute animals!) but the owners insist they are targeting boys as well. For online kids that are more into The Sims than Webkinz, SuperSecret is well worth checking out. Ultimately, its success will depend on how the social side works out and whether it can offer a different and engaging experience from all the other virtual chat sites.

Comment by Sharon, posted 12/3/2011, 2:21 PM:

I was wondering if this site has any affiliation to Jump Start. It is so similar, with the exception of chatting. Which is why my daughter did not want to stay on JumpStart. This is jumpstart with chat. Just what she wanted. Just wondering. Thanks Sharon
Comment by dxsrox, posted 3/17/2010, 8:53 PM:

How do you get the arcade games in your dorm room? I can't figure it out...
Comment by Hannah, posted 2/22/2010, 3:28 PM:

You get your pet at age 12 and dorm at 11! WHERE WILL THE PET LIVE??
Comment by Merlessia, posted 10/17/2009, 9:04 AM:

How do you decorate your dorm room? P.S. Nice blog!
Comment by nujood, posted 8/19/2009, 2:40 PM:

a good game for the kids
Comment by Betty, posted 8/18/2009, 8:48 AM:

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Betty http://adoptpet.info
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