FTC warns of explicit content in virtual worlds

Dec 10, 2009
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) building in Washington, DC. The US consumer protection agency warned parents Thursday that children can easily bypass age requirements in virtual worlds and access violent or sexually explicit content.

The US consumer protection agency warned parents Thursday that children can easily bypass age requirements in virtual worlds and access violent or sexually explicit content.

The (FTC), in a consumer alert, noted that many virtual worlds are for adults only and attempt to confirm that visitors are over 18 years old before they can enter.

"But a posted age requirement may not stop kids -- especially curious teens -- from finding their way in, either accidentally or otherwise," the FTC said.

It said they risked being exposed to disturbing behavior.

"The anonymity that avatars provide can encourage people to 'act out' behaviors that may be considered inappropriate, particularly for tweens and teens," the FTC said.

"Indeed, visitors may find the online equivalent of a red-light district, with simulated sexual activity or ," it added.

Virtual worlds allow users to create avatars of themselves and place them in 3-D environments where they can interact with other users in real time.

The FTC suggested that parents check out the virtual worlds their are visiting and "watch for changes in their patterns of behavior that could indicate an unhealthy obsession."

In a report on virtual worlds and minors submitted to Congress, the FTC urged the companies behind the sites to do more to prevent children from accessing them.

"It is far too easy for children and young teens to access explicit content in some of these virtual worlds," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. "The time is ripe for these companies to grow up and implement better practices to protect kids."

The FTC said it surveyed 27 online virtual worlds aimed at young children, and adults.

It said at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content was found in 19 of the 27 worlds and a "heavy amount" of explicit content in five of the worlds.

The FTC recommended that operators use more effective age-screening mechanisms to prevent children from registering, strengthen language filters and employ more moderators.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Startups offer banking for smartphone users

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FTC: Children still marketed violent content

Dec 03, 2009

(AP) -- The video game industry is doing a better job at keeping young kids away from violent and other inappropriate content than the music and movie businesses, according to a new report by the Federal Trade Commission.

The two worlds of kids' morals

Mar 02, 2009

Children's moral behavior and attitudes in the real world largely carry over to the virtual world of computers, the Internet, video games and cell phones. Interestingly, there are marked gender and race differences in the ...

Virtual reality can yield real legal woes

Mar 19, 2008

What your avatar does in an online fantasy world may very well land you in court. As virtual worlds increasingly generate real-world legal disputes, a cyberlaw scholar at the Rutgers School of Law—Camden is authoring a ...

1 in 3 boys heavy porn users, study shows

Feb 23, 2007

Boys aged 13 and 14 living in rural areas, are the most likely of their age group to access pornography, and parents need to be more aware of how to monitor their children’s viewing habits, according to a new University ...

Developing countries benefit from online gold rush

Sep 15, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Impatient online computer gamers have sparked a new industry in developing countries – by paying fellow gamers real cash in return for financial help in the virtual world.

Recommended for you

Startups offer banking for smartphone users

Aug 30, 2014

The latest banks are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Startups, such as Moven and Simple, offer banking that's designed specifically for smartphones, enabling users to track their spending on the go. Some things ...

'SwaziLeaks' looks to shake up jet-setting monarchy

Aug 29, 2014

As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares to end a two-year forced stay at Ecuador's London embassy, he may take comfort in knowing he inspired resistance to secrecy in places as far away as Swaziland.

Ecuador heralds digital currency plans (Update)

Aug 29, 2014

Ecuador is planning to create what it calls the world's first digital currency issued by a central bank, which some analysts believe could be a first step toward abandoning the country's existing currency, ...

WEF unveils 'crowdsourcing' push on how to run the Web

Aug 28, 2014

The World Economic Forum unveiled a project on Thursday aimed at connecting governments, businesses, academia, technicians and civil society worldwide to brainstorm the best ways to govern the Internet.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jamey
not rated yet Dec 10, 2009
Does the FTC actually have *SUGGESTIONS* for how the virtual world operators can more effectively screen for children? After all, many are already requiring credit cards for age verification, and driver's license information, and the really strange thing? The kids just steal Mom or Dad's, and goes right ahead.

You can't even be sure the person on the other end is male or female - guessing *AGE* is a real role of the dice - and a pair of d100, at that.