For our module on Immersion I discovered some virtual worlds designed for children and wondered about cybersafety. I felt that as an adult who’s not a parent nor someone who works with children I shouldn’t pretend to be a child and sign up. While I know my motives are professional and ethical, it’s disturbing to realize that anyone can pose as a child and get into a site designed for children.
One of my classmates responded saying that such sites do have adult supervisors in the various areas who make sure the interactions are appropriate, which sounds responsible since schools must hire adults to supervise children under their care. Sports and other extracurricular activities have adults to supervise the safety of children as well.
Connectsafely.com provides tips for parents and guardians whose children may use virtual worlds. The tips caution parents by suggesting they talk frequently about virtual world activity, view the virtual world with the child, teach children about good passwords and discuss bullying.
I investigated Petra’s Planet, a virtual world for ages 6 – 11. Petra’s Planet informs parents that the virtual world protects children by limiting the chat feature to a selection of set phrases. Thus when a child want to greet another child, she can select from a number of possible “hello’s” or “goodbyes.” There are several choices and not only does this protect children, but it probably allows for smoother interactions considering that younger players have limited literacy skills.