Nineteen of 27 virtual online worlds evaluated by the Federal Trade Commission contained either sexually or violently explicit content, says a report by the agency.
However, almost all of the explicit content encountered by the commission in child-oriented virtual online worlds occurred when testers were registered as adults or teenagers, rather than as children under age 13.
The report, which was directed by Congress in light of concerns about children’s accessibility to inappropriate content in virtual worlds, recommends five steps for virtual-world operators to take in order to decrease the amount of explicit content encountered by children. Those steps are to examine age-screening mechanisms; implement age-segregation techniques to ensure that members of the community interact with others in their age groups; evaluate the strength of language filters; provide guidance to community enforcers of online virtual worlds; and employ a staff of trained moderators who can quickly address any rule violations.
The commission also recommends that both children and parents become more educated about the benefits and risks of virtual online worlds.
A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2010 edition of Education Week as Virtual-World Safety