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Friday, May 20, 2011

Adults and Kids in Second Life

Last time, we talked about how to prove to LL that you’re an adult…or how, if you are 13 – 17, your access to some parts of Second Life is restricted. There’s another aspect to the fact that there are minors and adults on the grid…child avatars.

You may be walking along in SL, even in an Adult region, and encounter what appears to be a child. This small person walks, talks, and acts like a little kid. In real life, however, the person behind that child avatar is actually an adult.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this per se. Not only is it permitted under the Second Life Terms of Service, it can be great fun both for the child avatars themselves and for the adult avatars they interact with. I have a number of friends who play SL as children, and I think they bring an air of fun and innocence and play to the virtual world. I’m upset by those who think all kids, or even all short avatars, should be banned from Second Life. (Goodbye pixies, hobbits, Halflings, elves, and dwarves!) SL is all about variety of expression and tolerance. If you don’t like what someone else is doing or how they are doing it – go elsewhere! SL is big enough for everyone.

What IS prohibited is “sexual ageplay”. That is, using a child avatar for sexual situations, pedophilia role-play. If you encounter a situation like this, it’s a reportable offense, and LL comes down very hard on offenders.

So: Don’t have virtual sex with avatars who look like kids, OK?

What about the reverse? An avatar who appears to be an adult, but whose real life operator is a minor? People are not required to wear age badges in SL, or tell you their RL age. So if you are interested in virtual sex, how do you keep from making a mistake and Doing It with some Lolita, or the friend of your teenaged son? You can never be entirely sure about anyone in SL, or anywhere on the web for that matter. But there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself from getting charged with virtual statutory rape.

First, ask them…and make sure you have set your viewer to keep a log of your chat and IM conversations.

Second, meet them in an Adult area. The ability to go to Adult areas is prima facie evidence that a person is at least 18. It’s not an absolute guarantee; they might have lied about their age. But it at least shows you tried your best.

Third, don’t have virtual sex with anyone, ever. Er…no, I guess that would be unrealistic.

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