This article discusses what kids want, and what designers know about
online interactions. This article compares the capabilities of Webkinz
with the lessons learned from my own team experiences. Over the last
three years, our team at the University of Maryland has developed an
online community for children that supports their use of books and
sharing stories. In addition, we have spent time in our lab with
children and Webkinz, watching the interaction patterns between children
and between technology and children. Given these research experiences,
I suggest children want: control, to collect (stuff), a relationship
with characters in many forms, to be creators not just consumers, and
stories. I also suggest that designers know: how much time kids can be
in a specific activity; limits to what children can say online; and the
need for "green design."
The HCIL has a long, rich history of transforming the experience people have with new technologies. From understanding user needs, to developing and evaluating these technologies, the lab's faculty, staff, and students have been leading the way in HCI research and teaching.