What are they?
Virtual worlds are simulated worlds created on the internet that people can visit from their computer. 'Residents' can create a new identity (known as an 'avatar' - a 3D representation of themselves) and interact with others in real-time, in a relatively lifelike social setting. You can socialise, visit places, even catch public transport. Businesses are also starting to appear in virtual worlds, so you can buy anything from real estate to clothing, using virtual currency.
How do they work?
Sign up and create your virtual self, then you can start looking around the world.
Why are virtual worlds useful?
Virtual worlds are popular due to the pseudo-realistic nature of the websites. Building a virtual 'life' can be quite addictive.
What do you need to keep in mind if your children are visiting virtual worlds?
Currency used in virtual worlds is usually purchased using real money, so there is a cost involved in buying goods and services - even if they don't exist in the real world.
Make your child aware of some ground rules:
- They shouldn't reveal their personal details.
- They should be honest about their age when signing up. Some virtual worlds won't allow children under certain ages to join due to the adult nature of the content.
- They shouldn't respond to any comment or action that makes them feel uncomfortable, but report it to the site administrators and parents.
- They should keep their parents in the loop about their virtual life.
- If they want to meet offline, seek parental permission, and take a trusted adult with them.
Want to know more?
If your child is visiting virtual worlds, talk about it with them and see if they will show you around and how it works. Popular virtual worlds include:
Second Life (the teen version is - Teen Secondlife)