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A Guide to Your Kids' Online Hangouts

For Girls

Virtual world:

Painted in vibrant colors, this community invites gals to design their avatars' clothes, style their hair, and explore chic neighborhood haunts.

Emotional draw: It's all about sophistication in this girly world. Barbies hang out with friends, decorate their apartments, and do other grown-up activities. Girls dealing with peers and school can benefit from the positive daily fortunes that encourage them to take their dreams to the next level by creating a story or picture.

Cool factor: B Bucks are earned by acting in movies, playing simple games, and completing character-development activities. With B Bucks girls can shop for clothes, furniture, or even a virtual pet. There's also a small arcade with diversions like air hockey. Finally, music and videos can be downloaded to the specially branded Barbie MP3 player (sold separately).

Real-life rules: The site's instant-messaging service, B Chat, enables tweens to talk with the other 11 million Barbie Girls, but parents control the amount of freedom allowed in conversations. The Parents' Place section also lets you decide how much time your daughter can spend in the virtual world. Monthly membership is $6.