Jungen Raus!

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.

[emphasis added]

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.


15 responses to “Jungen Raus!

  1. Wow!…I don't know.
    As a personal choice Lalo, I haven't used “foul' language but maybe a couple times in my three years here…either in world or in the blogospere.
    I have never emotionaly abused another resident.
    So in my case, the age of another person is of no interest to me.
    Having said that… I'm not certain that there shouldn't be a means of determining the legal age here. How that is done…
    I don't have an answer other than what's been put forth.

    I'm certain we all have met quasi “adults” that make us sure that they are emotionaly/mentaly kids. Likewise we have met true minors that are so well grounded that it's difficult to believe they aren't forty.
    For me, the scary thing is that we will have kids here that won't have the experience to handle the manipulation that some of the adults will employ. My adult residents (two) that were manipulated weren't able to see the dangers until the manipulation emotionaly destroyed them.
    OK…that was sad, but they were adults.

    I feel we have a duty to protect our children… even those children that are wise for their years. If there is a better, more socially acceptable way to do that other than a tag…
    I'm all for it.

    I, perhaps because I was born in 1942 and had a friend that was a survivor of the Holocaust, understand all to well the significance of “stars”…

  2. For good or for evil, allowing people to create their own world on SecondLife has meant creating a great deal of sexually oriented material. A lot of people would find it quite shocking to know that there are children wandering the grid amongst this material in a form where nobody can tell that they are children.

    In the past, Linden Labs solved this problem by putting children on their own grid: complete segregation, which to my way of thinking is actually more offensive and problematic than integration but with some clear signal that the user is not yet of age.

    “yet” is an important point here. These are not people who will be discriminated against forever. At some point they will be old enough to fold into the rest of the population without distinction or separation.

    Childhood is not a race or culture or gender, it's a temporary condition, one we all go through, and most of us believe it's a temporary condition that makes children a special protected class. Had she lived, Anne Frank would have grown out of childhood, but she would have always been a Jew. That's an important distinction.

    I welcome sixteen and seventeen year olds to the main grid. I raised two teenagers and enjoy being around teenagers. Their presence could potentially re-vitalize the grid.

    I wouldn't mind having people as young as thirteen on the main grid so long as I knew they couldn't make it to mature rated areas and all of the people they encountered knew they were under age. Not so much to discriminate against them, but to make sure some thirty-year-old doesn't pursue them romantically not knowing they were dealing with a sixteen-year-old.

  3. Well, Lalo, I am totally in agreement with you. I have watched 4 teenage girls grow up and if anyone thinks they are not wise beyond their years compared to us in our youth then they are out of touch.

    Anyone determined to see mature content need go no further than Google.

    This constant over-protection of youth is unnecessary, the panic and hysteria far out-weighs, proportionately, the damage done ONLINE.

    Let's all just get a grip. Good and bad stuff can happen, that is part of life.

    My behaviour wouldn't change whether there are 13 or 16 year olds on the grid, I play nice. …and my friends do too.

  4. I act on any grid as I would behave walking and talking in my molecule based form.

    I bristle at the idea of “stars” as well, and also the idea that teenagers are children. My son is under 13. That's a child. Over thirteen, well, they're more mini adults than kids.

    In my 9 months on the grid I have only run across adult content without seeking it out one time, and that was due to a teleporter malfunction. I'm also adult verified, though, and contend getting that done can be enough of a pain in the butt to keep all but the most industrious of teens from trying to crack it.

    Excellent post and I'm glad you brought this kind of talk to light, hopefully before everyone jumps on that insane bandwagon of doom and gloom again.

  5. @Boyd: Age discrimination is still discrimination. Eventually “growing out of it” does not mitigate its effects while one is in it. People older than 50 (such as myself) suffer from it too, particularly in the job market… and yes, in the natural course of events we will “grow out of it”: we'll die.

    Branding is still branding. Imagine yourself eager to join a virtual world and being told, “Yes, you may enter, but for your first two years you must wear an identifying mark that not only denies you access to 7% of the world, but in the rest of it will subject you to: patronizing by well-meaning people who insist you need protecting, verbal abuse by people who think you should not be there at all, and wingnuts like this.” Think you might still be so eager?

    “A lot of people would find it quite shocking to know that there are children wandering the grid amongst this [sexually oriented] material in a form where nobody can tell that they are children.”

    Those people had better start being shocked now: it is common knowledge that underage Residents exist in Second Life — perhaps not in great numbers, but they're there, through various means of subterfuge.

    Not so much to discriminate against them, [oh, really?] but to make sure some thirty-year-old doesn't pursue them romantically not knowing they were dealing with a sixteen-year-old.

    I have little choice but to infer that “pursue them romantically” is a euphemism for cybersex, which inference is reinforced by the use of pursue, implying once again the idea of “protection” from “manipulation”. I would like you to consider the possibility, which I have already seen expressed explicitly elsewhere, that age barriers to behavior and “content” are for the legal protection of misbehaving adults, not for the preservation of childhood innocence. In other words, moral laziness, and a transference of responsibility for behavior: “I cannot trust myself to not be sexually attracted to someone whose age I cannot readily discern, so you (in the present case, Linden Lab) had better make sure that I can tell how old they are, and/or keep them away from me, so I can't be held liable by their parents.”

    Romantic involvement, on the other hand, implies a great deal more than a roll in the virtual hay. One assumes that it is a natural emotional development of getting to know each other on a level deeper than the pixels… and that the ages of the persons behind the keyboards will become self-evident, even if not explicitly stated. If a difference in age bothers them, or doesn't, that is their business alone.

    Which brings me to my final point: This is all about “being able to tell” how old someone is, in the absence of the visual cues our organic bodies bear. In my 2+ years in Second Life, I have found it quite easy to determine the relative difference in age between myself and those with whom I converse, by what they talk about and how they express themselves.

    Not only do I find the stigmatizing of a class of people, for whatever reason, abhorrent on its face, in this case I find it unnecessary.

  6. We do the same thing in the real world by putting a person's age on their driver's license. We do it specifically so they can't buy alcohol (which they sometimes particularly want to do).

    Absolutely it's to protect the adults, but they're in a real dilemma. They want to obey the law and not sell alcohol to minors, but sometimes it's very difficult to tell who is and who isn't.

    Just as there are laws preventing the sale of alcohol to minors, there are also laws preventing certain sexual behaviors between adults and minors on the internet. If we want people to comply with those laws, then we have to give them the ability to tell who is and who aint with regards to minors.

    Does it stigmatize kids? Probably. There are people who won't want to interact with them at all just because they're minors.

    The only other way to solve the problem, though, is to prevent anyone from engaging in certain behaviors, on the outside chance that one of the participants might be a minor.

    Prohibiting these behaviors might not change how you or I use SecondLife, I'm afraid we may be in a minority, or at least, a very slim majority. There's a significantly large portion of the population who would simply leave SecondLife over it.

    While there are people who choose not to interact with under age residents at all, there are plenty of others who will welcome them and embrace them and include them gladly.

  7. I've got to disagree with the comparison of the suggestion to mark under-18 accounts to the system of concentration camp badges used by the Third Reich. I've also got to disagree that age discrimination is the same at either end of the age range… filters on youth are not the same as filters on the older.

    There are legal issues with interactions with users/people under 18, and the disclosure/identity issues with Second Life/Linden Lab/TOS/AUP lead to many potential problems.

    These laws are in place to protect the children, not to discriminate against them or catalog them for their fabricated crimes against a monstrous national socialist society.


  8. Yeah, well… when I Tweeted the publication of this entry, I accused myself of perhaps “pulling a Godwin“. On the other hand, I don't expect all of my readers to be quite as familiar with conical hats, yellow circles, or other ways that have been mandated to visually stigmatize people who are otherwise indistinguishable from the general populus, in order to mistreat them with impunity. So I used the most obvious and historically recent example — not in reference to inside the camps, but in the few years before the camps were built.

    Anyway… The changes the Lab's legal consultants must make to the ToS, Community Standards, etc., will be very interesting to see. And — while people between the ages of 16 and 18 may have reached the legal “age of consent” in their home states or countries, they will not have reached the age of majority, when they can legally sign contracts on their own behalf, including Terms of Service. In the best of all possible worlds, parents will be reading over their kids' shoulders before the “OK” button is (or isn't) allowed to be pressed. How likely is that, do you think?

  9. On an nearly unrelated, nitpicking side-note:
    Technically, the title of your post would be read/interpreted as “Boys (should be thrown) out”.
    A better title would be “Jugend raus”, which would always translate to “Youth (should be thrown) out”, and actually sounds closer to what it references.

  10. @Yakumo: Vielen Dank! I've forgotten more than half of the German I learned, through disuse. Joining SL and meeting Germans has rescued what remains.

    @Ann: Yeah, something like that. ;)

  11. I'd argue that Linden Lab should be displaying in profiles whether an account has been 'age verified', meaning over 18. Something that all users will need to (optionally) do if they wish to enter adult-rated areas anyway.

    I'd hope that people wouldn't object to an optional flag they can elect to have added to their own account if they're an adult and wish to prove it. Most users playing child avatars already go out of their way to say they are age verified in their profiles, generally this is to stop them from being abuse reported for being underage in world.

    And yes, there are definitely under 18's already in world, thinking otherwise is naive.

  12. No dogs in this fight, but I'll add how heartbroken and angry some educators have been, at our VWER meeting after SLCC. They have 13-15 year-olds on the TG who will be exiled. Some plan to move to other VWs, and no way LL will earn their trust again.

  13. Just stopping by to say thanks for the mention and thanks for managing to pick out the 'common sense' amongst my SLightly Loopy ramblings ;-)

    I have to say, I really don't get this … fear .. displayed by some people over teens in SL, or on other areas of the internet. Yes, of course, protection is important, but it really does seem to me as though some people think teens have no right to have fun and no right to ever come into contact with an adult on the internet! Some people seem to be focussing on the teens when the focus should be on the adults who may be a danger to the teens (and that *doesn't* mean a witch hunt either!)

    I have to say … and I'm going to try to say this carefully so as to not cause drama! … but … well, people like the person you mentioned who has had to defend herself from claims of playing a sexually active child in SL concern me a little more than actual teens themselves!

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