BunkiMunki Creates a New Tween Virtual World

For children too young for Second Life but too old for WeeWorld, a Canadian company has launched an online virtual world that promises Internet safety and positive reinforcement. Its name? BunkiMunki.

The tagline, “Unlock the power of happiness,” features a key, and the site encourages children to buy the BunkiMuni keys to wear as jewelry, so they can recognize fellow Munkis on the street.

Tween, one of those irritating “mash-up” words like Frolf and bromance, refers to children between about 8 to 14 years old, some of what used to be known as the pre-teen years. Tweens are a lucrative market, spending upwards of $40 billion annually, the largest amount in video games, footwear, and impulse buys, researchers say. Experts say the mobile phone market for tweens is growing too, with more than 75 percent carrying phones now.

On BunkiMunki, kids can create an alias, or username, and customize their monkey avatars by doing things such as changing the color of their fur. They’re also given a home space, which they can decorate to their own style. The activities on BunkiMunki include online journals, happiness meters, and a virtual store. Kids earn Bunki Bucks to shop.

Tweens can choose from freebie or premium memberships on BunkiMunki, although the freebie membership does not include the ability to talk to other online friends. (?) The cost to parents is $44 per year.

Many parents, already concerned about their kids’ access to TV and video games, worry their children spend too much time in front of digital screens. Today’s Ad Age Stat of the Day shows some cause for concern: half of kids under the age of eight have access to a smartphone and kids under two are spending twice as much time in front of the TV as being read to.

PR pros, what do you think about social media for the younger set? Too much too soon? Or better to provide a special place for kids then to let them roam free across the Internet?


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