From Social Networking to Virtual Worlds

Representative Mark Kirk, IL “who has sponsored legislation banning access to social-networking Web sites in schools and libraries has found a new target of displeasure: Second Life according to this article. Because one of his aide’s was able to log in successfully and lie about her age, and then encounter inappropriate content in Second Life (note-not Teen Second Life), he feels this is a strong enough proof that surely the company isn’t doing anything to protect children. Funny how he doesn’t seem to mention the ability to keep people in or out in a space that a school might own in Second Life or Teen Second Life much less any understanding of the positive activities that are taking place in such an environment by schools and libraries. I guess it’s better though to keep ignorant and keep other people ignorant instead of trying to have a dialog about what virtual worlds are doing to keep youth safe and how interaction of adults and kids online can be very positive experiences.

We may not know much about Second Life ourselves, or if we do, might even have decided it’s not for us or our school or library. And that’s okay. But do we know enough about it or other virtual worlds to know what to look for to determine if it’s a safe environment? 1. What is being done with the personal information collected when a teen signs up for an account? 2. What information is being asked for in the first place? 3. How available are the staff online if the teen has an issue to report? 4. What ads, if any, are part of the environment or web site? 5. is content filtered and how?

It doesn’t solve anything on either side to make such a proposal. How does taking the access out of schools and libraries, who are supposed to be the educators of such online environments as virtual worlds help anything? Perhaps when they reach 18, they will also automatically have acquired the ability to know how to navigate safely online.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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One Comment

  1. We definitely need to be able to teach teens various technology safety skills. A ban of this kind certainly wouldn’t allow us to do that. This could be a good topic for librarians to broach with their legislators during Library Legislative Day. Perhaps a general discussion on the reasons why libraries need to provide access to social networking resources, virtual worlds, etc. as a way to educate teens about being safe and smart online would be a good focus for meetings during Library Legislative Day activities.

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