FTC Recommends Best Practices to Shield Children and Teens from Inappropriate Online Content in Virtual World

ANITHA on January 06, 2010

The Federal Trade Commisison (FTC) has published a report that analyzes how easily minors can access explicit content in virtual worlds, and the measures virtual world operators take to prevent minors from viewing it. According to the findings, although little explicit content appeared in child-oriented virtual worlds, a moderate to heavy amount appeared in virtual worlds that are designed for teens and adults.

Virtual worlds are popular with children and adults because they blend 3-D environments with online social networking, allowing users to interact in and shape their own online content. Some virtual worlds designed for teens and adults allow – or even encourage – younger children to get around the worlds’ minimum age requirements.The FTC surveyed 27 online virtual worlds – including those specifically intended for young children, worlds that appealed to teens, and worlds intended only for adults. The FTC found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 worlds. The FTC observed a heavy amount of explicit content in five of the virtual worlds studied, a moderate amount in four worlds, and only a low amount in the remaining 10 worlds in which explicit content was found. The Commission makes five recommendations to virtual world operators to reduce the risk of youth exposure to explicit content:

  • Use more effective age-screening mechanisms to prevent children from registering in adult virtual worlds;
  • Use or enhance age-segregation techniques to make sure that people interact only with others in their age group;
  • Re-examine language filters to ensure that they detect and eliminate messages that violate rules of behavior in virtual worlds;
  • Provide more guidance to community enforcers in virtual worlds so they are better able to review and rate virtual world content, report potential underage users, and report any users who appear to be violating rules of behavior; and
  • Employ a staff of specially trained moderators who are equipped to take swift action against rule violations

Meanwhile, parents can protect their kids and teens by using filtering tools like Mobicip Premium which allows them to block or unblock a virtual world based on their wise judgement on the age-appropriateness of the content in a virtual world.