Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Disney's Club Penguin -- A Fun, Online Community for Kids (Review)

Back in July, I shared news about the Make Your Mark: Ultimate Jam event, from Club Penguin and Walt Disney Records, which debuted the single and music video, "The Party Starts Now" by DJ Cadence. The original song was co-written by Michelle Lewis (China McClain, Lisa Loeb's Camp Lisa, Raven Symone) and guitarist/ songwriter/producer/composer Dan Petty, two of the artists responsible for music from the hit animated series "Doc McStuffins" on Disney Junior. The video which was promoted on Disney Channel, Disney.com and Disney's YouTube Channel, and is available for purchase through retailers such as iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. 

The kind folks at Disney sent along a gift card for me to try out Club Penguin for a month, and my nephew and I have been having a blast with this jam-packed virtual world for kids.  

So, what is Club Penguin you ask?  Here is more information about this popular and safe virtual community for fans of the Disney Channel:

What is Club Penguin?

Club Penguin is a snow-covered, virtual world where children play games and interact with friends in the guise of colourful penguin avatars.

How does it work?

Players create a penguin and explore the snow-covered island of Club Penguin, engaging in a variety of fun and imaginative activities. Players can chat, send greeting cards, use emotes (emotion icons), or choose from a set of pre-defined actions such as waving or dancing. Users can also attend theme parties and special events, take on a role in the latest stage play, adopt and care for a cute and cuddly puffle pet, and play games to earn virtual coins which can be used to design the perfect igloo and create hundreds of outfits for their penguin. New content is added every week.

Who is Club Penguin for?

Club Penguin is designed for 6-14-year-olds but is open to all ages.

Why did you create Club Penguin?

We wanted to build a fun, online playground guided by such a strong commitment to safety we'd feel comfortable letting our own children and grandchildren visit.

Is it safe?

As part of its commitment to creating a safe online environment for children and their families, Club Penguin offers two chat options:

Ultimate Safe Chat - Limits what users can say to a predefined menu of greetings, questions and statements, as well as emotes, actions and greeting cards. When it comes to chatting, these users can only see other Ultimate Safe Chat messages.
Standard Safe Chat - Allows players to type their own messages to other users. Every message is filtered to allow only pre-approved words and phrases, and block attempts to communicate a phone number or other personally identifiable information.
Although the filter is continuously updated, comments that could be offensive to some players may occasionally get through. In order to limit that and further protect participants, Club Penguin employs highly trained, on-site staff to monitor activity and chat, receive reports of misconduct and provide personalized player support. An "M" icon on the upper, right-hand portion of the screen reminds participants a moderator is available to help. Players who engage in inappropriate behavior can be silenced or banned.

How does Club Penguin compare to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace?

Unlike those sites, which provide a forum for users to post photos and other identifying personal information, Club Penguin strongly discourages the posting of any personal information and has a range of technological and human safeguards in place to block the communication of those sorts of details.

How much does it cost to play?

It's free to play, explore and chat with friends on Club Penguin, but special features such as priority access, exclusive parties and opportunities to create, discover and play in new and exciting ways require a membership.

Membership starts at only $5.00 per month and includes the following benefits:

  • Unlimited access to member-only areas
  • Exclusive gifts at special events
  • Style your penguin with new outfits
  • Upgrade and decorate your igloo
  • Adopt up to 20 puffles in any color

What are the benefits of Club Penguin?

In addition to being a great place to play and have fun, Club Penguin is a great place to learn and grow. On Club Penguin, children practice reading, develop keyboarding skills and participate in creative role playing. By accumulating and spending virtual coins earned through game play kids practice math and learn about money management. The cooperative nature of the Club Penguin environment, along with initiatives such as our secret agent and tour guide programs, also help children develop important social skills while gaining a deeper understanding of their role as members of a community.

Do you offer any tools to help parents manage their child's time online?

Club Penguin's new Manage Account area allows parents to create their own account and login to view their child's account history, including payments and bans, change their child's password or choose a different chat mode. Our integrated timer also allows parents to set the time of day and duration of their child's visits to Club Penguin.

My Thoughts:

Even though Savannah is too young to play with the Club Penguin virtual community herself, she enjoyed watching her nephew and I using it.  And, as a parent in today's world, where computers are a must have in homes and children are exposed to them at school and at home, I am happy that there is a club just for kids to have fun, and I don't have to worry about screening the content on a daily basis.  My nephew has been using this service for over a year now -- that is the free version -- and can't get enough of it.  He has a little calendar going with the different parties and activities that Club Penguin offers.  This keeps me going back and staying engaged.  During the month long trial I had, he enjoyed the bonus features/perks that come with a paid subscription, especially the ability to decorate his igloo and adopt up to 20 puffles.

I know what I will be surprising my nephew this Christmas -- a year's membership to the site.  How about you?  Has your child visited Club Penguin?  If not, why not sit down with them and take a virtual tour.  You will be surprised, as was I, at all the fun they can have online.  Don't worry about the membership aspect, as your child can partake in a variety of Club Penguin's offerings with the free version. But, I bet after a month or two of using, you and your child will see the benefits of a monthly subscription. :-)


About Club Penguin:

Club Penguin ( http://www.clubpenguin.com ), is the #1 virtual world for children. Club Penguin works to maintain a fun and safe online entertainment experience by using filtering technology and live moderators. The award-winning virtual world of Club Penguin contains no third-party advertising and is free to use and enjoy, however a subscription membership provides access to additional features that enhance the play experience. Club Penguin, headquartered in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, is enjoyed by children around the world, and can be played in English, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish. 

About Disney Channel:

Disney Channel is a 24-hour kid-driven, family inclusive television network that taps into the world of kids and families through original series and movies. Currently available on basic cable in over 99 million U.S. homes and to millions of other viewers on Disney Channels around the world, Disney Channel is part of the Disney/ABC Television Group. 

Disclosure:  I was sent a gift card to try out Disney's Club Penguin for one month, in order to help me write an honest review of the service.  The views above are mine and mine alone.

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