Mom, can I use your computer?
My kids are constantly asking to go on the computer to visit their favorite websites. There are so many of them now. How do we choose which websites we allow our children to visit? How do we determine the amount of time they should spend on-line? These are tough questions. I highly recommend visiting Barbiegirls.com whether you have a boy or a girl to create B Smart Pact. The B Smart Pact will help you engage your children in a discussion about fun, safe and fair internet play.
All that being said, I have found a new website that my children are not only allowed to play on but I encourage them to frequent. The website's name is Elf Island (elfisland.com) and it teaches our children how to make the world a better place by working collectively with others for the common good. What a wonderful idea in this day and age.
Let me tell you how I discovered this gem. Some of my friends in the tech world told me that something called elfisland.com was in development and that it was supposed to revolutionize the on-line gaming world for our children. Curious, I immediately requested a meeting with Good Egg Studios, Inc. the mastermind behind the web site.
When I arrived at Good Egg Studios in Atlanta, Georgia we sat down and logged onto the website, which was still under development. The site pulled up, and I was immediately transported to another place. A young boy named Jorge appeared on the screen and he became my online guide for this particular story and cause on Elf Island. Jorge gave me a powerful and informative a tour of a place in Honduras where families are in need of homes. I learned that if my children and I worked collectively with other children on Elfisland.com to build 10,000 virtual homes that our actions would allow for a REAL home to built in Honduras for a family in need. Could this be real? After sitting down with Good Egg Studios, I can assure you that it is not only real but it goes even deeper than that.
Elf Island offers our children the fun online gaming experience they seek while instilling redeeming values and social responsibility in them at the same time. While your children plant trees on this site they are planting trees in the real world by helping the not for profit organization Plant-It 2020. When they build houses on this site they are helping Habitat for Humanity build houses for real families in need in Honduras, when they help the polar bears on this site they will be helping them in the Arctic with an amazing organization named Polar Bears International, and so on. The people at Good Egg Studios call this concept "mirrored gaming" as it actually transforms online games into real world actions.
Elf Island is the first website for children that I have seen that uses online games, healthy and safe social interaction and storytelling by real people about real places to teach and actually allow our children to make a positive difference in the real world.
Elf Island shares their nonprofit partners' missions in a way that our children will not only relate to but with surely move them into action. On Elf Island your children will witness how their actions affect change in both the virtual and the real world. For example, when the homes are built in Honduras Jorge will take us on a virtual tour of the homes so we can see what was achieved by our participation in the activities on Elf Island.
Right now children can experience Elf Island free of charge. In approximately 45 days Elf Island will offer memberships for $5.95 USD a month, however, reduced rates are available if you join for six months or more and if you purchase family or group packages (making this a great idea for camps, schools, after school programs, etc). Elf Island was designed for kids 8-12 year old but certainly can be enjoyed by all with a parent there to help out. Try it out and enjoy this amazing experience.
Note from Christopher Byrne, Content Director, TimetoPlayMag: I spoke at length with Co-Founder Craig Kronenberger about the genesis of the site and how it works. Rather than donating a percentage of profits to causes, which can be nebulous at times, the costs of the projects are factored into the overall site. If kids complete the online projects, the real-world projects get completed. So far, even in Beta testing, the site has built four houses and repaired one. That's the result of kids building more than 10,000 virtual houses in under 3 weeks.
While there will ultimately be subscription costs, about $5.95/month, some of the Quests will be free to play and like any online immersive world, kids who pay will have access to more features.
Kronenberger has a tremendous vision for the site, and enthusiastic players already. The ability for kids to learn about social responsibility and see the effect of their actions both online and in the real world does make this a unique site. The graphics are strong, and the games immersive and comparable with kids' sites. If the site fulfills its initial promise, it will make a strong contribution both to learning and kids' online experiences.
Elf Island is still in testing, so it's still free, and we recommend signing up to participate in the Shark Preservation Quest, which begins January 19. It's a great way to see if your kids like this. We're betting they will.