Webkinz: How corporations teach your children to shut up and buy shit

In response to this blog post: webkinz just promotes capitalist/consumerist cultural values, instilling them in your children at a young age.

A look through their FAQs page for parents shows that it emphasizes purchasing home furnishings and earning more webkinz cash in order to continue making such purchases. They earn money by, among other things, going to the Employment Office.  In a very straighforward manner, children are taught that it’s important to have lots of new home furnishgins and keep up a socially determined appearance of “cool” or “stylishness,” necessitating money, and hence, employment, to afford the material commodities that bring such social cache.

However, the more upsetting feature of the Webkinz social netwroking site may be its sanitized social environment.  In the name of “safety,”your child is rendered incapable of meaningful, personalized communication because Webkinz already has pre-programmed words and phrases for them to “say” to each other.  From the FAQ page:

“Finally, our chat is entirely constructed. There is no way for a user to type what they want, nor ask or say anything inappropriate to any other user. We control everything the users are able to say.”

While you certainly wouldn’t want your children giving up personal information to creepy net-pedophiles and phishing scams, you should be sitting alongside them anyway, keeping an eye on their net habits and reminding them of these safety points yourself. Instead, we rely on corporations to baby-sit for us, allowing them to dictate what is “acceptable” for communication.  First off, this can serve their own ends: “buy more Webkinz,” for example.  Secondly, they are actually stunting your young child’s linguistic skills as he/she no longer has to synthesize sentences.  Webkinz serves to homogenize communication and what is considered socially acceptable and polite, preventing any meaningful communication from taking place.  What if your child goes on Webkinz and decides he or she doesn’t like the experience they’ve created?  He/she cannot communicate this feeling to other users, so there is complete ignorance on the part of all Webkinz users as to whether other users are dissatisfied with the experience.

As a parent, you would do best to foster meaningful communication between your children and their friends.  Encourage them to join communities suited to their tastes and hobbies where they can express themselves in an authentic capacity — for instance, let them make their Webkinz house and share screenshots with other Webkinz users on a WordPress blog instead.  Or nudge them into hobbies not focused on the purchase of dolls and corporate-facilitated social environments: sports, computers, stamp collecting, writing and reading, etc.

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~ by Daniel on 28 April, 2008.

One Response to “Webkinz: How corporations teach your children to shut up and buy shit”

  1. oh webkinz. hunter had one and i would go play the trivia games online to earn her money. but she was really stingy about spending it. we will have to discuss this over our next restaurant meal.

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