Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kids Online

Learned something new (and disturbing) about second life sites for kids like Webkinz and Whyville today. Though these sites are kid safe in terms of content, not much else is apparently:

On the playground, kids pilfer lunch money and push each other around. But in the cyber clubhouses they're filling by the millions, kids rig elections, sell fake products and scam each other out of every virtual-worldly possession.

Since these virtual worlds are modeled after a real world adult ones, the scams kids perpetrate on each other are anything but juvenile. Also, the degree bad behavior is several notches higher for reasons that mirror the online world of adults.

Like adults, many kids feel that behaving badly online has fewer repercussions than behaving badly in real life, where face-to-face interaction drives home the consequences. Just as they can jump off a virtual building and not feel a thing, they can steal from each other with no consequences.

It is a shame that in these adult-created virtual worlds where we supposedly want kids to learn life skills that they will need when they grow up, all we are really preparing them for is duplicity and learning not to trust each other. It is shame that kids don't have anyone to advocate and protect their rights as children and adults are able to mess with their lives and minds up with such impunity.

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