Virtual Worlds Internet Safety
Virtual Worlds or Virtual Reality Games are online places where you can create a representation of yourself (an avatar) and socialize with other residents. These avatars are usually depicted as three-dimensional graphical representations. Most virtual worlds allow for multiple users and communication between users. Communication between users ranges from text, real-time voice communication, graphical icons, visual gesture, sound, and forms using touch and balance senses.
Because an increasing amount of teenagers are engaging in virtual world activity, an increasing amount of predatory activity is expected.
Parents should be aware that in many virtual worlds anything goes. The “world” is only limited by the imagination of its players. In other words, if it can be imagined, it can be reality in the virtual world.
For example, in a virtual world a shopping mall may exist which is a popular hang out for virtual teens. This mall would probably include clothiers, music and gaming stores just like a mall in the real world. But it may also include a strip club, pornography store, or even a brothel. Again, the virtual world is only limited by the imagination of its players.
In addition to the stranger danger that is present in nearly every aspect of online activity, virtual worlds offer children a unique opportunity to be exposed to adult, profane, or otherwise inappropriate materials.
Before allowing a child to engage in virtual world play, parents should thoroughly examine the virtual world’s contents and child safety restrictions. The IPA encourages parents to keep off limits to their children those virtual worlds with no active child safe restrictions.