VIDEO: What Do Kids Think About Violent Video Games?

There has been a renewed discussion about violent video games and the correlation with real life violence.  This discussion crops up after every tragic mass shooting since the gunman more likely than not also played a lot of games like Grand Theft Auto or other violent games.

I’m not going to wade into this debate right now, (though I find this conclusion from Adam Thierer incredibly interesting) but at KidzVuz we thought it would be worth asking kids what they thought.

After all, this is the digital generation and it’s worth listening to them about the media, and world, they are growing up with.

Here’s the VIDEO:

KidzVuz 2.0 A Site is (re) Born

Consider this a sonogram of sorts.  A sneak peek at what is about to launch on to the web on Monday, October 3rd.  You can see our current version of KidzVuz now.  But, here’s a Wordless Wednesday of what’s about to launch.

KidzVuz is a site exclusively for kids ages 7-12 where they can create reviews about tech, toys, books, movies and with the new site – travel, food, pets and sports.  So, basically everything a kid would ever want to talk about.  It’s anonymous – user names only – safe and completely moderated.  Also, IT’S REALLY COOL!!!

So get ready for the big launch on Monday and join us for our Twitter launch party on October 5th at 10pm where we will be hosting awesome giveaways and talking about kids using technology to get creative.  Let’s empower our kids through tech, rather than scaring them!

Just Dance Kids! Another Great UbiSoft Game Giveaway!

One of my fears as a mom is that as winter approaches my daughters will spend more and more time indoors being sedentary with unspent energy making all of us a little nuts.  So, I love Wii games that get my girls moving.  Just Dance Kids is one of those games.  First of all my 8 year old daughters are very wary of games that could seem too young.  Just Dance Kids has two modes – older and younger kid, which instantly put them at ease and garnered some “cool” points.  On the mom-of-the-80’s plus side there are songs like Holiday and Mickey in the dance list – though not sung by Madonna or Toni Basil unfortunately – but still some songs for a mom who remembers wearing leggings the first time around!

Just Dance Kids is not easy – and best of all not easy to cheat.  My daughters found out long ago that they could cheat the Wii by just moving the remote and not their whole body.  That’s hard to do with this game.  You’ve got to keep up and keep your body moving to get the remote going the right way and earn your points.  The only downside is that there is no practice or learning session, you just jump right and in and try to follow the lead dancer.  It’s not that easy to pick up even on the easy level.  Some rehearsing would have been nice.  But, overall the game kept them dancing, and moving.  On a cold, rainy day it was just the thing to work off those Turkey Day leftovers and keep cabin fever at bay.

Want to win your very own copy of Just Dance Kids for the Wii?  Just leave a comment below telling me your (or your kids’) favorite dance hit!  Want an extra entry?  Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did!

This contest is now closed.

Want to win even more?  Check out my UbiSoft Petz Nursery 2 Ninetendo DS giveaway too!

While Ubisoft sponsored this review, the opinions I’ve expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Ubisoft, Clever Girls Collective and I promote Blog With Integrity.

Kicking off the Holidays: Petz Nursery 2 Giveaway

This post is part of a sponsored series from Ubisoft, celebrating “12 Days of Giveaways.” See below for how you can enter up to 12 times to win fun and family-friendly video games.

I am allergic to dogs, and cats, and rabbits, and hamsters…you get the idea.  So of course my daughters are obsessed with all of those pets that will never be a part of our home.  And trust me there are days where they’d probably trade me in for a puppy.  But they have learned to transfer their obsession to the virtual world and Petz Nursery is one of their all time favorite games for the Nintendo DS.  Just in time for this holiday season Petz Nursery 2 is hitting the shelves and they couldn’t be more excited!

In Petz Nursery 2 you can:

  • Take care of up to 22 baby petz and help them grow. As newborns, your baby petz will need to be picked up and played with, and eventually taught to crawl. When night comes, help them fall asleep by rocking them or singing them a lullaby.
  • Unlock never-before-seen exotic petz. Animals such as baby pandas, tigers, polar bears, and leopard cubs, you will be able to pamper wolf cubs, piglets, and 4 different breeds of penguins!
  • Play activities with two babies or just one; but make sure you give both babies attention or one will develop faster than the other.
  • Send your baby petz to the Petz virtual world, Petz World, and unlock exclusive exotic animals.

Sounds like hours of fun right?  And all without the sneezing, itchy eyes and 3 am walkings!

You can purchase Petz Nursery 2 at Amazon or Toys R Us but best of all you can enter right here to win your very own hypoallergenic copy!

Enter the Petz Nursery 2 Giveaway by leaving a comment below telling me a little something about your family’s pet – or why you don’t have one.  A winner will be selected at random on Dec. 3rd as part of the UbiSoft “12 Days Of Giveaways” promotion. (open to residents of the continental US only)

You can also win Just Dance Kids for the Wii on Beccarama through Nov. 30th. Click here.

Want more ways to win great games for the whole family including Just Dance 2 (Wii), Battle of Giants: Dinosaur Strike (Wii), Petz Fantasy (DS) and Petz Nursery (DS)? Visit each of these blogs during our 12 Days of Giveaways from now through December 3!

Rookie Moms
DaDa Rocks
Crash Test Mommy
Scraps of My Geek Life
Mommies With Style
The Fairly Odd Mother
All Things Fadra
The Lemonade Stand
Mom to the Screaming Masses
Romy Raves

I was selected to participate in this sponsored series by Ubisoft and Clever Girls Collective. I received a video game and compensation for my participation in this program. We believe in Blog With Integrity.

It’s a LEGO Universe – And My Whole Family’s Living In It

I love LEGO and I suppose it’s in my DNA because my daughters, particularly one of them, are LEGO building fanatics.  Give her a giant bucket of multicolored bricks and she’s off constructing every animal, structure and vehicle she can dream up.  My daughters also inherited my gamer geek gene (and their dad’s – I really shouldn’t take all the credit blame here).  So, LEGO Universe seemed like the dream game experience for our family – imagination, building, multi-player collaboration and challenge.  My daughters beta-tested the game for several months and have been playing the full fledged version for free this past month.  As have I – in the name of research of course.  You can read all the nitty gritty details about LEGO Universe and check out the Trailer, but

Here are my (Geek)Mom Top 5 Things I Love About LEGO Universe:

  1. It captures the spirit of real world LEGO in all the best ways – creative, inventive, somewhat challenging but also rewarding
  2. It has an amazingly whimsical sense of humor.  That might not be what most people look for in an online game but I seriously appreciate the small witty touches from the MiniFig who covers his eyes while you type in your password to the way guy who lost his pants outside the rock venue that’s hiding in a barrel.  Just funny.
  3. Piece of mind when it comes to the online safety of my kids.  The moderation is woven into every level of the game, from chat to character naming to on-site patrol of the game.  I know it’s a world where the real life creeps will be crushed by the Maelstrom.
  4. The ability to engage with others, determine levels of friendship or go it alone and build your own property.  Let’s hear it for imagination and the building of LEGO structures brick by brick in ways they can’t do in real life.
  5. LEGO Universe ignited my daughters’ imagination off-line too.  After logging off of LEGO Universe my daughters went on a building binge in real life and a bit of a buying spree at the LEGO Rockefeller Center Store.  It’s a habit I don’t mind feeding.

Here Are the Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

  1. This is not an easy game for younger kids.  It is rated 10+ and unless you have a very experienced little gamer on your hands you should heed that age.  Or be prepared to offer assistance and play along with them
  2. It’s Not Entirely Intuitive.  The game doesn’t offer a ton of hints or help along the way but once you get the hang of how to complete missions and where to look for clues it becomes much easier to navigate.
  3. The price.  This is a much richer, deeper and creative experience than a Club Penguin or Fantage but it costs $39.99 plus the yearly membership of $89.99 compared to their cost of around $58.00.  You get 4 MiniFig Players with your account so you can share among siblings and family members but in my house that’s not the best option because my twin daughters like to go into these online games at the same time and play together.  So $260 for 2 kids for that first year breaks down to over $20/month which doesn’t seem like a lot for hours of entertainment (my daughters get 1 -1/2 hours of computer time on Saturday and Sunday – sometimes it’s more if we’re especially tired!) but in the scheme of a family budget it’s something to consider.  Though I think we will be incorporating it into allowance and they will have to pay 50% themselves.

And I should mention that you get a month free when you purchase the game so you have time to make sure your child is going to stick with it.  You can also purchase month to month if you have a finicky kid who tends to get obsessed for a month or two and then moves on to the next thing.

It’s not in my nature or my blog’s nature to do this kind of straight up review but I really do love LEGO (and NetDevil) as companies and brands.  They’ve not only been some of the most passionate, creative and thoughtful people I’ve ever met but I have to love a company that values the power of imagination above all else.  That’s a trait I’m happy to pass on to my daughters right alongside all that other geekified DNA.

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The World May Be Virtual, But the Hurt Feelings Are Real

My daughter came into the living room with tears in her eyes, a big pouty lower lip and a look of pure devastation on her face one Saturday morning.  I asked her what was wrong – did she fall off her chair?  Bang her knee?  Stub her toe?  No.  It’s turns out that while playing Club Penguin someone had come into her igloo and pronounced it “lame.”  She proceeded to tell me through her tears how hard she had worked to decorate her igloo, the coins she had spent on a multi-colored dance floor and disco ball.  I am not kidding, she had spent the last two weekend mornings obsessed with decorating her igloo and planning every inch of that ice filled room.  And now all it took was one lousy penguin to deem it “lame” for my daughter to deflate and wither in total despair.

At first I couldn’t help but laugh.  Not the best reaction I know, but it sounded so absurd.  To find out that an imaginary penguin had insulted her imaginary igloo and that this little virtual interaction could cause so much real life grief was hard to take seriously.  But, then I realized I did have to take it seriously, because to her this world was an extension of herself.  This was her creation, her thought and planning, her online identity.  It’s hard to imagine having an online identity at eight years old – but there it is.

My daughters started playing Webkinz about 3 years ago.  That progressed to Club Penguin, then Build-A-Bearville a stop at Zwinky Cuties and now to Fantage.  Lest you think we’re creating screen zombies you should know that my daughters don’t watch TV – they just don’t like it.  Their computer time is limited to weekend mornings before the days’ activities begin.  I think this has made their computer time even more precious and special than perhaps it should be, yet seeing how completely and utterly absorbed they become in these virtual worlds made my husband and I lay down ground rules for the computer at a very early age.   Just as they’ve been taught to not talk to strangers on the street or go with anyone that hasn’t been explicitly approved by us first, they also know not to give out any personal information online, to never tell their passwords, to not click on pop-up windows or ads and how to spot strange behavior even in these virtual worlds.

However, other lessons have to be learned the hard way – through experience.  It’s not easy to face the jerks and mean kids in real life and it’s not fun in 2D either.  Some sites like Club Penguin put the onus on the kids and tell them to report bad behavior.  I’m not too keen on that.  I know it can be empowering but it has also turned my kids into tattletale police and I don’t know if that’s the best lesson either.  I’ve seen them stick up for other avatars that are the victims of insults and I’ve seen others do the same for them.  Those are the times where I really appreciate these sites as a safe place for kids to figure these things out.  You can’t have a completely sanitized virtual world any more than you can have a sanitized real world even though these sites purport to be as regulated as possible.  It’s hard to regulate the “poo-poo head” slingers of the universe in any realm.

My daughters are growing up in both worlds.  They are the first generation to truly straddle the virtual and the real from the get go.  Being a part of these online communities, creating avatars, engaging in pretend commerce, fashion, decorating, sports, games, conversation – all of this adds up to a very rich experience in a truly interactive way.  The fact that my daughter’s feelings can be hurt online is maybe not a bad thing.  It shows an investment and a pride in something she’s produced.  Above all she has to learn to stick up for what she’s created and stand behind it.  Perhaps not quite like artists have always done, but certainly along those lines.  And hopefully these lessons will translate later into standing up for herself against cyber-bullying and all of the other new media ways that kids have come up with to torture each other.  A girl who has already learned to stand up for herself online back when her igloo was dissed might have a thicker skin when confronted with other e-bullies.

Either way the whole idea of Internet safety needs widen its focus away from the pedophile stalkers and cyber bullies and deal with the fact that the virtual is just an extension of real life.  It seems scarier because it goes on silently, it seems clandestine and secretive, but it’s no more so than a tree house full of plotting kids or a late night sleepover party where all sorts of bad ideas are hatched without adult supervision.  So I think I’d rather my daughters be prepared for life in any realm; have the self-confidence and sense to navigate both fake igloos and real city streets.  The two worlds are not separate entities but one universe that their generation is exploring and creating in ways that have never been done before.

This is an original post and is featured on this month’s Yahoo! Motherboard.

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My Daughters’ Review of Sandlot Sluggers for the Wii

So, I’m not a big “reviewer” per se.  Opinions?  Sure I’ve got a ton of them, but I’m not a sit down and review a product kind of girl.  But sometimes a fellow fabulous momblogger and PR maven extraordinaire like Beth Feldman will invite me to an event with my kids like this one for Atari’s Sandlot Sluggers and it is too good to pass up.  One: because it sounds like a ton of fun, and Two:  because Beth asked me to, and I trust and like Beth, a lot.

So, my daughters and I trekked down to Midtown afterschool one day to the Atari offices for some good ol’ baseball, Wii style.  The event was fun, hot dog cart, Cracker Jacks, popcorn, screens and playstations set up all over.  And pinatas, can’t forget the pinatas, though I wish people would.  Anyway, even though my daughters bitched and complained the whole way there they had a blast and unbelievably enough for two mathletes, they really enjoyed the game.  Read on for the review…

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