On Sunday, the NY Times featured an illuminating piece on the expanding universe of children’s online worlds, ranging from the predominantly virtual, like Disney-owned Club Penguin, to those that encourage the purchase of offline toys for online play, like the extremely popular Webkinz. The article reports on the increasing number of children joining virtual communities and interacting with online rather than real-life toys and peers, with the number of unique monthly visitors to Club Penguin more than doubling in the last year (jumping from 1.9 million to 4.7 million) and Webkinz.com seeing a 600% growth in the same period (growing from less than 1 million to 6 million visitors).

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