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null For years, parents and public figures have deliberated on the dangers of children's internet use. The frightening number of creeps populating cyberspace is an obvious cause for parental concern, as is the widely accessible amount of unfiltered information. If kids only stuck to particularly kid-friendly web sites for tightly regulated windows of time, adults would have no reason to worry, right? As always, the answer isn't simple. According to several news outlets, the marketing-oriented makeup of popular children's sites like Webkinz is teaching our tykes some not-so beneficial habits. You see, the Webkinz site (a social networking utility reminiscent of Facebook) requires its users to own a $15 plush toy from its line of dolls, and buying a toy gives a child access to the site for a year. In a clever marketing strategy, kids are expected to buy at least one toy per year in the series of collectibles. According to CBS News , the user numbers of Webkinz have grown 13 times over the past year. Expect to hear many whines and claims that "everyone else has one." Sure, contributing 15 bucks once a year towards some interactive fun for your child isn't a disaster. But the inherent idea that kids should buy their way into a play community makes us feel a bit concerned.
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