Friday, April 2, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Wiglington and Wenks

Kids often want something new to fill their free time. Moms want something productive to fill their free time. I thought I had found something that would satisfy both of those requirements in a program called Wiglington and Wenks.

Apparently this virtual world started as a book (see Media Freaks blog for more):
The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks was originally a children story book series by veteran businessman John Bittleston, later adapted into a virtual world for kids by creative entrepreneur Aldric Chang and Ngo Chee Yong.
I definitely saw great potential in this concept and website.


Product: Wiglington and Wenks
Details: A website that offers kids a place to search for historical figures while traveling the globe and learning about object, places and people of historical significance. Most of the site is free, but a membership is required to have full access and to enjoy some enhanced features. My kids played mostly on their free accounts although we did get a free membership account to use for a month.
Price: $5.99 each month with better rates for multiple months, up to $29.99 for six months

What we loved . . .
  • Lots to do. They boast the largest virtual world with over 100 different locations and lots of games, activities, house and islands to buy, and hidden objects to uncover. You can travel the world without leaving your computer chair.
  • Educational base. The idea is that kids search for historical figures that have lost their memory and then they find their lost objects to help restore their memory.
  • Great graphics. This is definitely a well put together website. The characters are endearing, the scenery is detailed and unique, and there is a lot going on visually.
  • Creative idea. I appreciate the idea behind W&W. Kids exploring the world to make connections between important people and related objects. They should be able to learn while having fun doing so.

Some considerations . . .

  • ***Caution required***. Kids have fairly free reign as far as what they say to other travelers in this virtual world. They can't type numbers (to help prevent them from typing ages, phone numbers and addresses), but they can write them out. Kids quickly learn how to work around the system. If profanity isn't allowed, they type in one letter at a time. Moderators roam the world as well trying to keep inappropriate activity to a minimum, but they definitely do not catch it all. And, many kids just get banned for a day when they do get reported. If they get blocked entirely there isn't much keeping them from starting a new account with a new name and email address. Because there is so much freedom in the chat and forum features I do not consider this a safe place for kids to hang out unsupervised for long periods of time.
  • Moderation is inconsistent. Now, I will say that they do try to keep a close eye on things. My son actually got banned one day. He was asking people to play water balloons and because he was repeating the question with capital letters, someone reported him as spamming and he was booted for 24 hours. Another time my daughter stepped away from her person for a couple minutes and my four year old started typing in gobbledygook. She also was then banned for 24 hours. I was glad they were trying, but I think they miss too much of the really serious stuff that goes on. Also, I reported a comment on a post in which another traveler said something about "slashing you up" and it is still there (last I checked, a few days after I reported it). They may have done something and reprimanded the individual, but the post still stands, so apparently they don't find that inappropriate and feel the need to remove it.
  • Questionable historical value. Some of the characters and objects that they choose don't rank high in my book as far as historically significant. I would rather see presidents, kings, queens, inventors, artists, authors, etc. Instead you have Buffalo Bill, Darwin, Gandhi, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.
  • Lots of distractions. Most kids will probably spend lots of time "chatting" with other kids or playing games, and not really learning anything about the historical figures anyway. There is a lot of play available in comparison to the learning available.

I hope that the designers and managers of the program work out a way to make this program safer, because it does have a lot to offer, but I really cannot whole-heartedly encourage you to get a membership, or even a free account, as the program stands right now. It definitely has benefits, and has some great educational fun to offer, but the liability in doing so is not worth it currently.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web membership was provided to me free of charge through Wiglington and Wenks as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

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