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Virtual Worlds for Kids – Club Penguin

To a lot of parents, and an ever-increasing army of kids, it feels like Club Penguin has been around forever. But surprisingly, the virtual world of penguins and puffles has only been with us for four short years.

Launched in 2005, when Facebook was only a year old and a Tweet was still the sound of a bird, Club Penguin was an immediate Internet phenomenon, spreading like wildfire across a pre-tween audience that wasn't even supposed to know what the Internet was!

Just four years later, Club Penguin is still the gold standard when it comes to creating a compelling, fun and safe online experience for young children.

The site now boasts tens of millions of members worldwide and has just released a version for Spanish speaking fans, its fourth language after earlier releases in Portuguese and French.

It's easy to see how Club Penguin has stayed ahead of the competition and remained so popular. More of a multiplayer online game than a social network, players create a penguin, waddle around a snow-covered virtual world, chat with other penguins, decorate their igloos, and play a wide selection of mini-games. They can even adopt and nurture puffles, which are small, fluffy creatures with distinctive personalities.

Club Penguin, which was acquired by the The Walt Disney Company in 2007, claims the site is designed for children age 6 to 14, although it's likely that most kids at the higher end of this range will have moved on to other Internet playgrounds. However, for kids K through 6th grade the site is a joy, combining cute characters, fun games, and social interaction in a world that seems instantly familiar from favorite storybooks.

From the beginning, Club Penguin has maintained a strong focus on safety, using word filters and moderators to make sure that nothing inappropriate slips through. When it comes to direct contact with other players, parents even get to choose between Standard Safe Chat, which allows players to type their own messages, and Ultimate Safe Chat, which restricts chat to a predefined list of greetings, questions and emoticons.

The site is free of all third-party advertising, although the online Club Penguin Toy Store is always just one click away. The site also promotes the fact that a full range of Club Penguin toys, games, puzzles and books are available through Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, as well as the Disney stores.  

Club Penguin provides a paid membership option and a "non-membership" option, which is free but does not include all the benefits that come with being a member. Non-members can still play games, travel anywhere in the Club Penguin world and own a limited number of puffles. However, they don't enjoy access to all the puffle breeds, and can't acquire clothing, wigs, hats, or decorations for their igloo. Memberships range from $5.95 for a month to $57.95 for a full year.

Despite the numerous impersonators and other virtual worlds that have come – and gone – in the last couple of years, Club Penguin remains at the top of the list when it comes to entertainment, creativity and safety. With additional languages being added, and plans in the works for further expansion, expect penguins and puffles to continue to delight kids for generations to come!    

Comment by Luke, posted 4/26/2010, 10:36 PM:

Here is a good list of other virtual worlds for kids that are like club penquin: http://www.thecoolwebsites.com/cool-kids-websites.html
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