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ERIC Number: ED527204
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Dec
Pages: 94
Abstractor: ERIC
Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks. A Report to Congress
Federal Trade Commission
Expressing concern about reports that children can easily access explicit content in online virtual worlds, in March 2009 Congress directed the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a study of such worlds, examining the types of content available and the methods virtual world operators use to restrict minors' access to explicit content. Accordingly, the Commission conducted an empirical survey of the explicit content offerings in 27 online virtual worlds, selected as a cross section of worlds specifically intended for young children, worlds that appealed to teens, and worlds intended only for adult participation. The Commission also obtained information directly from six specific virtual worlds. This Report presents the results of the Commission's inquiry, focusing only on content found in online virtual worlds, and not on explicit content that children might encounter generally on the Internet. Overall, the Commission found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds surveyed. The Commission observed a heavy amount of explicit content in five worlds, a moderate amount of explicit content in another four worlds, and only a low amount in the remaining 10 worlds in which explicit content was found. As a result of its study, the Commission suggests that virtual world operators make certain enhancements aimed at reducing the risk of youth exposure to explicit content, including: (1) Ensuring that the age-screening mechanisms virtual world operators employ do not encourage underage registration; (2) Implementing or strengthening age-segregation techniques to help ensure that minors and adults interact only with their peers and view only age-appropriate material; (3) Re-examining the strength of language filters to ensure that such filters detect and eliminate communications that violate online virtual worlds' conduct standards; (4) Providing greater guidance to community enforcers in online virtual worlds so that they are better equipped to: self-police virtual worlds by reviewing and rating online content; report the presence of potential underage users; and comment on users who otherwise appear to be violating a world's terms of behavior; and (5) Employing a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in-world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations. Appended are: (1) Survey Sample; (2) Survey Methodology; (3) Survey Instrument; and (4) Screenshots. (Contains 11 figures and 97 endnotes.
Federal Trade Commission. Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580. Tel: 877-382-4357; Tel: 202-326-2222; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Federal Trade Commission