Gaming websites – today’s covert toy commercials

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Remember Saturday morning cartoons? You know they were created so that toy companies would have captive audiences for their product commercials, right? It’s true. So now that our kids are dividing their screen time between TV and the internet, toy companies have once again created content for their target market; our kids. Only now, instead of cartoons, it’s branded gaming websites and apps where our kids play ‘free’ online games.

 

Hasbro has a wide variety of toy related games for most of their popular toy lines, and Fisher Price even has games for infants! While some are slightly educational, they are definitely likely to result in your child’s preference for Hasbro and Fisher Price toys.

 

This strategy of ‘Gamification’ is nothing new, and it’s not just used on kids. It is a tactic lots of successful marketers use. Gamification is a powerful strategy of employing aspects found in games to encourage new habits and behaviors. The U.S. Army uses it as a recruitment tool, Nissan uses it for their environmentally concerned drivers, and parents use Chore Wars to encourage their kids to make their beds. I’ll be honest – I do it too! How many times have I sung the ‘Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up’ song to my 2-year old to get him to put his toys away? And it works. Very, very well.

 

We all like to play, and in today’s world kids want to play games on-line. When done in moderation it can be a fun and sometimes educational activity. To ensure your child (and your pocket book) is protected, here are a few simple tips that have worked in our household:

 

1. Decide with your child what games they will play on what websites. Have an honest chat beforehand to let them know why the game is free. “Is this a Transformers game? Cool! For free? They are probably trying to get you to buy a Transformer – just saying”

 

2. If the game is provided through an app, check to see if in-app purchases are built in to the game. If so, adjust the parental controls on the tablet, PC, phone or other device to prevent in-app purchases. Some kids have no idea they are using real money while they are playing so it is best to protect yourself.

 

3. Remind your child not to provide any personal information or ‘friend’ any players without speaking with you first.

 

4. Consider gaming sites that don’t, overtly, push products to your kids: Wordlywise3000.com, funbrain.com, Pbskids.org, abcya.com and others.

 

These tips have worked in our house but we want to hear what works for you! Please share some of your favorite kid safe gaming sites below.

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About Ebony

Ebony is the co-founder of HomeConnex. For 7 years she managed public relations and strategic communications campaigns in South East Asia and South America. Now, she spends time with her husband and two beautiful children and helps families improve their quality of life through technology.

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