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Moshi Monsters - Who is Friend-ing Your Child?

Millions of kids well under the age of eighteen log onto various websites each day, and the potential dangers involved in networking with others online are vast. From sexual predators and cyberstalking to more common potential problems like the transmission of viruses and malware, cyber-security is often a grave concern for parents these days. Sites geared toward kids make especially good targets for problems, and one site that is only gaining in popularity is Moshi Monsters. Offered by the media company Mind Candy, nearly ten million new kids subscribe every single month, and if your child is one of them, a bit of caution is in order with all of this fun.

What is Moshi Monsters?

The site itself is a cross between a social network and an online game, and the target audience here is kids ages seven to fourteen, but enrollment certainly isn't limited to that. Anyone can sign up and play at any point in time. Players adopt a monster, and throughout the world itself, they can solve puzzles aimed at sharpening their thinking skills to earn the currency within the world, dubbed Rox. That allows them to buy a number of different things for their monster including food, accessories, and even monster furniture. The revenue from the site is primarily sourced from parents who buy premium content for their kids online, and so far, it's proven to be a profitable venture for Mind Candy.

The setting within this world is Monstro City, and there are stores, streets, and even an island. Users can choose their monster's color and buy clothes for the adopted pet. While all of this excitement may sound harmless, the real concern for parents comes in the activities kids are allowed to do while they're logged into this virtual world. Friends are allowed to connect with each other, and free messages can be sent to any user's pinboard, even if they haven't purchased premium content. There are also forums within the world that allow children to connect with other players in the virtual world.

Danger Abound

Because the site is geared toward kids within a certain age group, many parents mistakenly believe all of the users onboard are children, and that little can happen while they're online. That is perhaps where most of the danger lurks. While parents do have to opt their child in via email, anyone can sign up for an account and pretend to be a child who just wants to play. In this context, anyone, naturally, includes sexual predators who may have other intentions.

What's more, though, is that the chances of your child just logging on, earning Rox, and buying things for their Moshi Monster are quite slim. Eventually, they'll begin making virtual friends within the world, and chatting both on their pinboards as well as on any number of forums located throughout the site. While all of these messages are public, no private messaging is allowed within the virtual world, that doesn't stop anyone from asking your child his or her real name, age, and even address. Behavior like this, naturally, could lead to more serious problems.

Moshi Monsters does have a few safeguards in place. For example, there are moderators on the boards, and user behavior software is employed to help ensure inappropriate content isn't shared, but for the most part, that hasn't stopped all inappropriate behavior from occurring.

A quick survey of many online bulletin boards where parents often post messages to each other to ascertain the security of given sites shows hundreds of parents who have personally witnessed concerning behavior within the site. From users discussing inappropriate subject matter to lots of leaked personal information, including personal phone numbers, it seems the software in place to limit such problems isn't always as functional as Mind Candy might hope. Friend requests as soon as your child joins aren't uncommon, and most of those are likely from outside influences who don't actually know your child.

The potential is certainly here for serious problems.

Avoiding the Danger

Despite the fact that it is possible to make contact with potential predators, simply banning your children from the site entirely isn't completely necessary. There are ways to avoid the potential dangers. You can start by talking with your kids about online safety. Helping them understand why they mustn't communicate their personal details is a solid step in the right direction. Additionally, being your child's own moderator is important too. Allowing them to have unsupervised computer time is always a poor idea. Place the computer in your living room where everyone can see what your child is doing. Sit next to him or her as she plays on the site. Moreover, only allow them to accept friend requests from children they actually know at school.

The bottom line with Moshi Monsters, or any other site online, is that if your child has the opportunity to communicate with others, there's a very real potential danger that an online predator could be on the other end of the conversation. Ensuring you keep your kids safe with these tips and a simple awareness of what can happen is absolutely key.

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