Be afraid. It's another Facebook horror story.
I just read about little Megan Fox, a 7-year-old in England who, while playing PetVille on her parents’ Facebook account, spent $400 on virtual pet care. Yes, virtual, as in not even real.
A couple of obvious questions spring to mind, like What’s "virtual pet care"? and Why does a 7-year-old have access to $400 to buy it? I can’t really answer the first (because I’m afraid to log on), but I can tell you that the money wasn’t hers to spend. PetVille is a Facebook game, and because this second-grade spendthrift was playing on her parents’ Facebook account, she was connected to her father’s PayPal account (which he’d forgotten to log out of). Snap!
Megan must have bought some really fly clothes and furniture for her virtual pet with that $400.
It’s kind of funny in retrospect (kind of), because the Fox parents, who were cluelessly sitting right next to their daughter while she went on her spending spree, actually gave fashion advice whenever Megan asked, having no idea that she was spending their hard-earned ducats.
I’ve spent many an hour in Webkinz land with my own 6-year-old, and I know that she would love to have an endless amount of Kinzcash. In fact, she often asks if there is an easier way to get some scratch than actually earning the Webkinz money through games and trivia contests. You can buy your kid some virtual cash, but I haven’t sunk that low yet. I also know that my kid has very little idea how commerce really works. Should my own credit card pop up, she’d be off and shopping without ever looking back.
The truth is, every time we log in to check on my daughter’s computer-generated menagerie, I’m still a little squeamish about her obsession with hanging out in these virtual terrains. Wouldn’t it be more fun to build a fort, read a book, ride a bike, or just play with real toys?
Although I wish my kids preferred to jump on the bed rather than on the laptop, they don’t. So, I try to find a good balance, reasoning computers aren’t going anywhere, and that, of course, I want my girls to be comfortable and conversant in the computer world. But damn, I’ve got to get seriously vigilant. $400 on some little cartoons would push me over the edge.
Do you give your kids real money to spend in virtual worlds?
Image via whiteafrican/Flickr