Online Games @ Club Penguin
The ice cream came with sweets sprinkled on it. At first I thought they were Smarties, but a taste revealed something akin to Skittles. Five minutes later I added a few grey hairs to my head, and ten years to my life, as my five year old son ran screaming with his arms in the air through the first floor of Fortnam & Mason weaving through tables containing dishes that cost more than I earn in a year.
We were there to find out more about a website that's a LOT more parent friendly than a bunch of E numbers and sugar. Club Penguin is an ad-free, online, virtual world of games and activities for children.
You can register for free and gain access to most of the content. You'll get extra features if you subscribe. At around £3.95 a month, with discounts if you sign up for longer, it compares favourably to an equivalent spend on renting a DVD or buying a magazine.
The website offers games, role playing (encourages reading and the development of keyboarding skills), and a virtual community where children are encourages to be stewards of the island and can apply to be tour guides or secret agents.
When it comes to chatting to other players, there are two options for parents to choose from. Ultimate Safe Chat restricts to the player to a predefined menu of greetings, questions, emoticons etc. With Standard Chat, players can type their own messages. These are filtered and monitored by trained staff, who will block attempts to communicate a phone number or other personally identifiable information.
I haven't given the site a try yet. I'm still waiting for son to come down from his additive induced high! But from what I've seen so far, I like. It's not commercial in appearance, as it is ad free, and it has a great feel to it.