FTC: Virtual Worlds Offer Real Explicit Content to Minors

A congressionally-mandated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report looks into the availability of sexually and violently explicit content in online worlds to minors.

Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks examined 27 virtual online worlds, including Second Life, Build A Bearville, IMVU, Neopets, Runescape, There and YoVille. Selected worlds investigated ran the gamut from those intended for kids to those aimed at adults only.

At least one instance of sexually or violently explicit content was found in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds, with five labeled as having a “heavy” amount of explicit content, four containing a “moderate” amount, while a “low” amount was found in 10 virtual worlds.

Kid-oriented (designed for children ages 13 and under) virtual worlds fared a little better, with seven featuring no explicit content, six featuring a “low” amount and a single world labeled as having “moderate” explicit content.

The report also examined the ways in which virtual worlds designed for older teens or adults kept out younger children. It was found that “most” worlds used an age-screening mechanism tied to a birth date entered in the registration process and half of these worlds did not accept kids who re-registered on the same computer using a modified birth date.

The Commission recommended five steps for virtual world operators to take in order to limit the exposure of kids to explicit content:

  • Ensuring that the age-screening mechanisms virtual world operators employ do not encourage underage registration;

  • Implementing or strengthening age-segregation techniques to help ensure that minors and adults interact only with their peers and view only age-appropriate material;

  • Re-examining the strength of language filters to ensure that such filters detect and eliminate communications that violate online virtual worlds’ conduct standards;

  • Providing greater guidance to community enforcers in online virtual worlds so that they are better equipped to: self-police virtual worlds by reviewing and rating online content; report the presence of potential underage users; and comment on users who otherwise appear to be violating a world’s terms of behavior; and,

  • Employing a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in-world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations.

What defines explicit? The Commission developed its own factors, looking to Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating criteria.

The full report, in PDF form, can be grabbed here.

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  1. 0
    Bennett Beeny says:

    It is allowed. It’s perfectly legal for children in the US to look at porn. I think you’re confused about the law here. It’s only illegal for an adult to supply a kid with porn.

  2. 0
    sharpshooterbabe says:

    Except for the pedo’s and child molesters & a father that recently got divorced from his wife & had their kids & made them watch a porn. Which is sick. This story happened in Texas. & the divorced wife said that her kids innocence was stolen from them. But she reported it to the courts & nowhere does it say that he can be in jail for it, but basically a slap on the hand. Currently she wants a law passed that put men/women that show porn on their computers to their kids to be put in prison.



    "It’s better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." – Montgomery Gentry

  3. 0
    sharpshooterbabe says:

    @ Jedidethfreak: I listen to a talk show that is on 97.1 the eagle the total rock station & in the mornings you can listen to them on their website. It’s called the Lex & Terry Show. They give advice to men about cheating wives, gf’s, one night stands & so much more. Lol….anyways, they were talking about a study that was researched in Canada that now the average age for a "kid" to see porn for the first time was at age 10. The research was being conducted asking young men from the ages of 21-24 to come in & watch a porno, but did NOT want them if they had already seen a porno. Idk why they were doing the study though.



    "It’s better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." – Montgomery Gentry

  4. 0
    Bigman-K says:

    If you’re talking about adults disseminating pornography to minors with the intent to have sex with them then Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you. With that said though shouldn’t the age to view pornographic content be consistant with the age of consent. In most places the age of consent is 16 which is reasonable so it seems rediculous to me to set the age in which a person can see two people doing the deed at a higher age then that which they can actually do it themselves legally.

     "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  5. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    I didn’t say there was an issue caused by 8-year olds looking at porn.  I just said that I don’t think it should be allowed, am glad it’s not allowed here in America and that nobody here on GP can change that.

    You KILL Vampires. You don’t DATE them.

  6. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    I have no problem with a 16-year old looking at porn.  However, that doesn’t mean that I think that porn should be made legally available to people under the age of 18.

    The whole reason to keep people under the age of 18 away from that kind of stuff is because of the fact that adults are not legally allowed to discuss sexual relations with minors.  A 21-year-old cybering with a minor is illegal in this country, and rightfully so.  By making it so that children can’t access these sites, we don’t have to worry about people getting mistakenly arrested for doing just that.

    You KILL Vampires. You don’t DATE them.

  7. 0
    Bigman-K says:

    I think the question that needs to be asked is "Do 8 year olds seek out pornography to being with?" The answer is most likely no unless they’re forced to which of course any sensible person would say NO that is wrong.

    With that said if a 16 year old happened to be viewing porn because he/she wanted to is that wrong or bad. I personally don’t see that as such a bid deal as i don’t believe a 16 year old would be in any way psychologically harmed or damaged by viewing it (do to the fact that normally by that age they’re biologically ready to and it’s a natural part of human nature) and teenagers are having sex and have been since the dawn of mankind.

     "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  8. 0
    sqlrob says:

    Could you post links to peer reviewed studies that show issues caused by an 8 year old viewing porn?

    I don’t think children should be viewing porn, hell, I don’t think that anyone that doesn’t want to should be forced to (e.g. porn spam / ads). But as to there being anything other than a touchy feely reason? I’ve never seen one.


  9. 0
    sharpshooterbabe says:

    I have played Runescape before & some of the kids on that site needs their mouths washed out & questions that they ask is close to talking about body parts & dating & what they did. I just wish there were more moderators on there. But, it’s also due to peer pressure by friends & some older teens that maybe open up to their younger sibblings if they are in the wrong mindset. & some kids look at these websites & say they will join w/or w/out asking parents. Some parents care & some don’t. The ones that do have passwords on the computer from letting the child look at websites that are not suitable for them. Whereas now it has gotten to the point that some parents want their kids to come to them about their passwords or tell them what is going on on that website they are associated with. I don’t blame them.

    I think kids are sheltered from the outside world. It’s not a good thing, but not a bad thing either. Whether teens look at porn or talk to people about it, I think it’s their business. Yes starting after 16 yrs old. But that’s their decision no the parents, unless the parents lay ground rules down till their 18. But trying to restrict them after 18 from websites or in life outside of the home is wrong.




    "It’s better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." – Montgomery Gentry

  10. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    I don’t know if you know this or not, but, here in America, any attempt to ban or restrict this material, outside the scope of reasonable restrictions to minors, is illegal and unconstitutional.  Therefore, it won’t happen.  Also, even if it should somehow come to pass, it would be happening under a liberal watch.  Not the conservative one the same people decrying this study would have painted.  I think that’s funny, that you’re worried the guy you voted for is going to take your porn away.

    You KILL Vampires. You don’t DATE them.

  11. 0
    sqlrob says:

    Do you understand how identity verification works online? (hint: it doesn’t).

    The only way to keep adult stuff away from kids is to not have it there in the first place. So yes, they do want to restrict adults.




  12. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    They looked at the adult sites to make sure kids couldn’t get in very easily.  How does that restrict adults in any way, other than making them prove that they’re an adult?  I have no problem with it.  I have to do that when I look at porn on the internet anyway, in most cases, and I have to do that to even go into an adult bookstore.  I guess I just don’t see a problem with trying to keep kids away from adults stuff by ACTUALLY trying to keep them away, versus removing the adult stuff altogether (looking at you, Australia).

    He was dead when I got here.

  13. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    Yes they did, by looking at both kids sites AND sites not intended for kids.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  14. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    Did you read the article?  They’re not trying to restrict ADULTS, they’re just seeing how well WEBSITES keep adult stuff AWAY FROM KIDS.  Big difference.

    He was dead when I got here.

  15. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    I doubt it would become law, as neither game ratings or movie ratings are law, nor is the sale of games or movies rated "mature" to minors restricted by federal law.

    He was dead when I got here.

  16. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "… half of these worlds did not accept kids who re-registered on the same computer using a modified birth date."

    I presume this means these systems would also reject adults who try to re-register (either after entering the wrong date by accident, or because they have kids who’ve unsuccessfully tried to register on the same computer)? I hope such a system doesn’t ever become law; it seems like such a terrible idea, especially considering how silly the "problem" really is.

    The FTC should have better things to worry about than explict content and kids not being segregated from adults.

  17. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I think the long term goal of a lot of these groups is to make the real world kid friendly…. so they make spaces for adults more and more difficult to construct.

    Lowest common denominiator.

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