Common Sense Media says
Adult themes easily encounted in popular virtual world.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the imaginative virtual
world Second Life is an appealing hangout for kids
of all ages, but is rife with adult-themes and
conversations that are best left to the adults or
older teens. There is no longer a Teen Second
Life, which once was a safer, monitored virtual
world with minimal adult content. Instead,
everyone is now routed to SecondLife.com, where
they are able to chart their own course and
socialize (via text or voice) with any of the
millions of registered users from all over the
world who also hang there. Areas are rated
PG or Mature, but without the restrictions
that existed with the teen version, there's
more opportunity for teens to end up chatting with
an adult posing as a kid or wandering into some of
the adult areas that exist (potentially exposing
them to brothels, pornography, etc.). Customizable
3-D avatars are a big draw, and options range from
skin color and hair styles to costumes and bust
size, so the customization
possibilities are practically endless. The site is free to join, but it has limitations unless you upgrade to a monthly membership. The site's currency, Linden Dollars, can be purchased with U.S. dollars or earned by selling created items.
Violence & scariness
Drinking, drugs & smoking
Privacy & Safety
What Kids Can Learn
Whats it about?
Is it any good?
The open-ended environment of this virtual community is part of SECOND LIFE'S appeal and charm, and there's ample opportunity for kids to flex their creative muscles (though the tools to do so are somewhat clunky). Visitors will find socializing, entertainment, games, and abundant opportunities for learning (sit in on a classroom discussion, run a business, learn to play an instrument). Plus, they can buy, sell, and develop land; build structures, and shop. Avatars can even fly! Certainly, there's nearly as much to do in this world as there is in the real world. But that's what also makes it a dangerous environment for kids. Without the safeguards that were in place at Teen Second Life, teens are more likely to wander into -- intentionally or unintentionally -- adult-themed areas or overhear inappropriate conversations or chat with someone who isn't who they claim to be. Yes, it's an engaging, creative place full of endless possibilities. But left unchecked or unmonitored, that may also present the biggest concern.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about what virtual communities are. What appeals to kids about using an avatar rather than a true identity? Families can also discuss consumerism in virtual worlds. What are users really getting by buying pretend stuff in this pseudo-world?
Families can also talk about the importance of protecting your privacy and staying safe in a virtual world. What steps can you take to stay private and safe?
How are virtual worlds places for marketers to
anything? How are products and brands tied into such sites, and what makes them such great arenas for selling stuff? How can you be a savvy consumer and not buy into the virtual hype?
This rating and review provided by Common Sense
For more information, please visit www.commonsense.org