Someone whose blog I recently began following just royally pissed me off:
Since an under age user can wear any avatar, I would insist on there being some clear indication on the avatar that they are under age. Obviously there would need to be an indication of this on their profile, but it wouldn’t hurt to include it as a symbol or something on their name tag to broadcast to all users that the person they’re dealing with is not an adult and they can adjust their behavior and their language and interactions with that user accordingly.
As soon as I stopped seeing red long enough to type, I left this in the comments:
What do you suggest: a yellow star?
Yeah, that was harsh… it was meant to be. Think about the history of making a certain class of people wear labels, and remember how old Anne Frank was when she wrote her diary.
And then tell me it won’t matter because “Second Life isn’t real”.
Yeah, yeah, I know… The topic of “underage” people on the Grid — to say nothing of people roleplaying underage, at least in appearance — makes people say weird shit they might not otherwise think about. Some of them just plain “get the creeps” at the thought, and some of those are eager to tell anyone, whether they care to listen or not, just how creepy they think it is. Others get all worked up about protecting the children:
Access to content is nothing. That hasn’t been prevented for decades and will always have holes.
Real problem: Anonymous adults will be able to communicate via IMs to underage residents. Like a fox in a chicken coop.
[superfluous emoticons removed]
That, by the way, is from someone who has spent a large chunk of her time in SL (and the forums about it) defending herself from accusations that she is “playing” a sexually-active underage girl (cf Lolita), merely because of her avatar’s appearance.
I left an answer to that in the comments, too:
Underage residents will be able to mute IMs of anonymous adults, and to AR them. 16- and 17-year-old people are not defenseless. A good (rational, civil…) argument can even be made that they are not children.
Meanwhile, I have also seen verified adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s victimized by domination that did not stop at roleplay. It’s not a matter of chronological age, it’s a matter of maturity, self-respect, and powers of cognition.
People of any age with common sense and an awareness of the world around them will probably agree that there are more immature people over the age of 18 than there are mature people under that age. I would be hard-pressed to deny that Second Life has a reputation for attracting the immature, especially the ones who think that what they do while in SL is of no consequence because “it’s just a video game.” And no, I’m not just talking about griefers. But you will find people who will argue against the acceptance of 16- and 17-year-olds into the Main Grid (which will, by the end of the year, be the Only Grid) on the grounds of their behavior:
They’ll act *gasp!* like children!
As if a whole lot of Residents don’t already…
To give the author of the first quote his full due, he did provide a justification in the same breath that he advocated visually stigmatizing the under-18s:
…they [adults] can adjust their behavior and their language and interactions with that user accordingly.
What’s wrong, I ask, with behaving like a mature and responsible person to begin with? Is the presence of someone younger than some arbitrary standard age necessary to curb one’s desire to act in “virtual” public the way one would not act in “real” public? If so, an examination of one’s desires is at least as relevant as proof-of-age of the nearby public. Either that, or you’ve fallen into the “it’s just pixels” trap again.
On the side of common sense — granted, I say that because its the side I’m on — is another blogger who I just began following: Suella Ember. She puts forth a SLightly Loopy facade (it’s the name of her blog), but there’s no doubt she thinks hard. In her review of Philip (Rosedale) Linden’s speech at SLCC, which is when the news about the Teen Grid was announced, Sus lists some very good points about why it’s not a bad idea. Here’s her last one:
They need to look at the content and age verification controls to make sure they fully protect 16 and 17 year olds on the main grid. However, we should all also be careful of using ‘protection’ as an argument for not having 16 and 17 year olds on the main grid when it is in danger of really being ‘over-protection, prejudice and exclusion’.
Content and verification controls — and lest we forget, it’s also going to involve another major re-write of the Terms of Service that we’ll all have to agree to before being allowed on the Grid.
Aware, active parenting (another of Sus’ points).
Mature, responsible public behavior for its own sake, not because “OMG, there might be kids around!”
And not — not ever — making some people wear a badge.