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Feb 02, 2008



Call me old-fashioned, but I really don't think that MMOs should be played by anyone below the age of 12 for two reasons:

1.) Development. More than anybody else, children need a significant amount of movement, fresh air and interaction with -real world- in order to develop and adopt to it. I've played computer games since I was 4~5 years old, but I still went to a nursery school and ran about the yard with my friends. MMOs often tend to substitute those things.

2.) Safety. I think we all know that "children shouldn't talk to strangers" and that "parents should watch their children". Now, while I can just barely imagine parents supervising their children, while they are playing the Beary-game, not-talking-to-strangers in an MMO seems to be rather problematic. I think the rest is rather clear here.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all pro-MMO (12+) and educational games for children (-12), just as long as the two don't combine.


I hear what you're saying, Nicholas, but 12 seems like a harsh cut off. I remember being 10 or 11 and having very meaningful experiences with computer games that gave me, as a shy child, just what you say kids need: "a significant amount of movement." Still, I think you're right that kids MMOs are getting too quickly substituted for other types of play and/or learning. Since these worlds are still relatively new (or at least newly popular), it'll be interesting a few years down the line to see the effects they've had on the development of the children who play them.


I'd like to peek inside... Kids who get their bears the "Native American" attire... How do they speak? And how do they name their bear(s)? Knowing how kids (and adults) tend to "play Indian," I'm guessing this is another site for stereotypical "information" about American Indians to circulate.


One thing however Bonnie, is that the requirements of children really do involve a lot of physical playing. Playing hopscotch, kicking footballs, marbles, wrestling, riding bikes, all that. Now, computer games where indeed around when I was a kid. At 10 I got my first Vic 20, and we played lots of games. The difference at least was the games where fairly social. Friends would come over, and we'd play space invaders (or whatever), in proximity , for an hour or so till the folks would clear us from the TV set, then we'd go outside and ride bicycles.

The logistics of modern games are a bit different however. The kid needs to just walk over to the computer, flick the wrist around controling his orc for 6 hours then go to bed. No pretense of exercise at all.

Thats not to say the old TV-Games where much exercise, but they where at least able to be integrated into a more vigorous socialisation and physical activity regime.

Not that I'm in the 'dont let kids play MMOs', as the potential for imagination play is immense, but its got to be monitored. Too many anti-social obese kids is not a good thing.


Debbie, I don't think that issue would really come up. Though players can register bears, they play as people. Most avatars you see around are blond girls. Some sport teddy bear backpacks, or other stuffed animal-related accessories, but I haven't seen anyone roleplaying from the perspective of the stuffed animals themselves.

Also, the Native American costume is just one of many stereotypical outfits that are available for the animals. Isn't it just as possible children are circulating stereotyping language around other types of people as well?


For me this comes down to a matter of mechanics. There is restricted and free chat in the bear world and when you have free chat it will be used for reasons not intended by the developers. (Do I have to bring up Jurassic Park?) What I am interested in is are their friend's list or groups? These kind of social mechanics may also create groups and connections not intended by the developers. All of this free reign may create inappropriate situations but it might also broaden kids minds. How awesome would it be to see a protest of the "native American" costume organized by the kids with in this beary interesting world. =)


I complain so rarely about articles (as in: never), but the title of this one really bugged me: "Sexual Safety for the Price of a Teddy Bear" ?

I find the title misleading (IMO), seeing as you are more safe (limited to the drop down menus) if you don't buy the bear. So it's more like: "Sexual Safety _potentially_compromised_ for the Price of a Teddy Bear"

I liked the comments about exercise. I'd love to see a danse-danse-revolution jump-mat as a standard computer USB peripheral, and well accomodated in "mini-game" style multi-user environments, especially those geared at young children. No reason why they can't get a little exercise while accumulating their "pretty pony points", or whatever.


I find the title misleading (IMO), seeing as you are more safe (limited to the drop down menus) if you don't buy the bear. So it's more like: "Sexual Safety _potentially_compromised_ for the Price of a Teddy Bear"

Fair enough, blackrazor. The change has been officially and mentally--if not actually--made in retrospect.


Hi all :)
Forgive me from hopping in from the peanut gallery, but I think it might be good to remind everyone of the behaviors displayed (flirting, interacting... TALKING) on playgrounds and junior high hallways, at camps and malls, in notes passed and school dances. Not that this behavior is "great", but it's everywhere, and it's part of the learning experience. Social exploration.

As a community professional for preteens, it's up to US to create the right kind of environment that promotes better engagement, as well as continuous staffing that keeps the "less" than acceptable behaviors off our social world atmosphere, or at least under control.

I'm glad many of these virtual world experiences exist. Why? Because they garner some of the precious computer-time they spend on Perez Hilton & surfing Youtube-- both locations not appropriate for U13, period. Plus... everyone forgets about chat programs like aim and msn messenger-- those are free-ranging chat programs with NO supervision, filters, etc. Adults can "Find" kids, kids can "find" kids, harassment, engagement, chatting-- all of it. Most of the youth I speak to about online media get their first "aim name" around 8 or 9-- and it's like a right of passage.

For me-- it's less about the existence of these places, but more about the policies of protection there-in.



I've been watching people worry about children's "sexual safety" online for a long time now (anyone remember Time magazine's cheesy, sensationalistic "Cyberporn" cover?), and I have to say my feeling that people's fears are misplaced hasn't changed any.

If people adjusted their fears to bring them in line with facts, they would be far, far more scared about driving or riding in cars than they are of flying in an airplane. Being in a car is just way more statistically likely to get you killed or injured. But we all know, cars don't work like that.

In particular, we tend to fear the new and unknown. And chatting or gaming online is still pretty new, and only a fraction of our 6 billion+ humans have spent much time doing it. And yes, it has happened more than once that a kid has met a pedophile online and ended up getting together with them in person.

But not often.

By contrast, in the United States of America, 30-50% of our women are raped, molested, or sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. That's a staggering statistic, and one which I think most Americans are unaware of. (The percentage of males, while lower, is also frighteningly high.)

When we divide up our levels of concern, of fear, and more significantly, of action to protect between "stopping the kids from getting raped by someone they meet online" and "stopping them from getting raped by someone they meet in real life", while I certainly wouldn't advocate online safety efforts should drop to zero... I'd say that given the magnitude of the two threats, way over 90% of our efforts and attention should focus on the real world. In eleven years of running Furcadia, with the hundreds of thousands of people that have gone through there, and a large percentage of young players, to date we've had to kick out three adults for trying to get together with minors in real life for immoral purposes. While that's worth doing, statistics suggest that had we been managing a real world city of hundreds of thousands of people, the number of pedophiles we'd have to deal with would be at least four orders of magnitude higher.

I just don't think it pays to be penny wise and pound foolish on this issue. If I were able to do only ONE thing during my entire life to make our children more sexually safe, it would be to inform the majority of the American public that this is a problem for 30-50% of our women, and get them to believe it. Then maybe we'd have the motivation and the will to take some actions on a massive scale to start addressing and healing this vast problem. (What those actions might be to be effective, I only wish I knew.) If I were able to do that, and it came at the expense of everything I have done and will ever do in the future to help with online sexual safety for children - I wouldn't lost one second of sleep over such a trade=off.

If anything, I think the creepy myth of the online rapist/pedophile who will stalk your kids is yet another convenient distraction from the nature of the real problem. Just as when I was growing up, visions of the trenchcoat wearing flasher and the creepy stranger luring kids into their car with promises of candy were handy scapegoats to help us avoid facing the reality of who's doing most of the raping - trusted, close friends of the family & actual members of the family.

Every time I hear people going on about protecting children online, it pushes my button of anger that people are going nuts over the tip of the iceberg, and ignoring the rest of it. This has been my pre-recorded button push tape recording paraphrased yet again, we now return you to your regularly scheduled life of talking about everything else and ignoring this problem. Thank you for your time.


Thats a salient point Dr Cat (Can I just call you Cat? the Dr Salutation things probably a little moot around here).

There was a little 'motto' I was told once regarding analysing news articles "If its in the paper , its probably news. If its news, its probably rare".

Familial molestation is disturbingly common. When I was working as a video tech at the courts, I'd say a full half of all the cases going thru the district court (above 'petty' and below 'supreme' in Australia) was sex offense cases. And the psychologist at the courts guestimated about 1/3 girls and 1/5 guys would experience some sort of abuse , be it rape, underage molestation or incapacitatingly distressful harassment. Thats huge. But its never reported in the paper.

What IS reported is the classic "villain hides behind bush and pounces" rape or child abduction case. The major reason is this form is really quite rare. The vast majority of offenders are known to the victims. Not to say it doesn't happen, but its much rarer.

Now I don't know how this translates to online. The apparent anonymity may indeed bring a few predators outside the family home into the 'open' , but I can't imagine it being as huge as popularly imagined.

It reminds me of a student poster I saw post bali bombings. It was captioned something like "In Australias worst year ever for terrorism, more people died falling down stair cases. Pass the prozac!".

Furcadia is interesting however, in that its a fairly sex-positive environment. The Furry movement seems to be quite sexually aware, and perhaps provides "healthier" outlets for 'deviant' (I use that to mean 'outside the norm' rather than 'morally bad') experimentation, then stalking minors (which is both outside the norm AND morally bad). But thats some bad pop-psych I'm doing right there, so never mind me.


Cat is fine - I'm not a real Doctor, though both of my parents had their PhDs. I have a notion to maybe get one someday without bothering with the Bachelors or Masters - my mom told me those aren't requirements for a PhD, most people just happen to get them on the way. Just like most people get a high school diploma or a GED before attending college, but I didn't. (Dropped out to make games for a living, conveniently avoiding the BS - take that any way you want to.)

Anyway, thanks for that court psychologist's estimates from Australia for comparison. I'd really like to know what the statistics are for every country, now I'm up to two!

I don't think the newspapers (or TV or radio news) are the place to inform people of this sort of thing, for the reasons you mention. And yet, most things that happen so widely and frequently are well known to people. The newspaper doesn't need to print "Combining bread, peanut butter, and jelly produces tasty sandwich - millions enjoy it every day!" Because our culture conveys that information to most of us through various other channels. Family, schoolmates, teachers, observing characters in movies, books, and tv shows going through typical experiences like brushing teeth or eating sandwiches or putting their dirty clothes in a washing machine... One way and another, the basics of cultural literacy are passed along to each new kid growing up, so they don't need to be in the news.

Some things, however, are "too uncomfortable to talk about" and/or not widely known, so they aren't disseminated. Such as "a staggeringly high percentage of us are raped or molested". How this information can be more widely disseminated, I don't know, but I'm sure going to keep trying to figure out a way. Even the seemingly less scary message, "It's ok to masturbate, maybe it even relieves stress or something" got a Surgeon General of the US fired for trying to tell people that. Go figure.

Maybe it's because Jesus died on the cross to keep you from spilling your seed on the ground. That could explain it. But for goodness sake, don't spill it in some underage, unwilling relative who would never dare tell anyone and if they did nobody would believe their story anyway. That's just plain wrong. And if some kid in your family is scared of one of the adults in their life, even if they can't or won't say why... Don't turn a deaf ear, try and help 'em out, ok?

I think this is the biggest, worst problem in America today. Even if we can't or won't admit that to ourselves. It's still there, whether you ignore it or not.


I think the biggest problem is people thinking it's the computer's job to protect their kids. Obviously there should be practices in place to keep our kids as safe as possible. But whether you're playing on a real or virtual playground, parents and teachers ultimately need to teach our kids about values, safety, golden rule...

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