Well I knew this was bound to happen eventually. Yup, someone I know asked me for some thoughts regarding services like There and Second Life. To be brutally honest, I have not had the opportunity to try either of these services. I suppose the need to take the big virtual step has simply yet to come up.

But the question remains: What is my official opinion of these virtual services? Are they safe for kids? Do they look like much fun and is it true that they can be a little too addictive?

Before we get ourselves buried in details, I think one thing ought to be perfectly clear: Any sort of chat like environment is risky for kids when there is no clear control from parental supervision and some for of moderation. Actually, I don’t believe kids have any business using these sorts of products until they are at least 15-16; just my opinion. These services may or may not offer moderation. Regardless, you should still be involved…

Anyway, the next question of course involves the value of the time spent required to participate. Well, There.com does offer a free membership in addition to a paid option if the user so desires. And what is interesting is that Second Life does as well. But one area that Second Life trumps There.com in a stone cold minute is with the use of a real system of commerce – from within the game. As to being a valuable experience, I think much like real life it depends on what the participant is doing there.

Getting back to the subject of earning money: Yes, apparently Second Life offers a commerce system that deals in a currency known as L’s. Heck, Second Life is even looking for business partners interested in extending their brand within the Second Life world.

Both There.com and Second Life appear to offer the both the user and the partner working with them plenty in the way of options. Finding things to do from within these virtual worlds does not appear to be too challenging, either. Still, one has to consider that unplugging from this ‘world’ could potentially be an issue for some people. Remember the chatroom addictions of the 1990’s? I think that if people using virtual worlds don’t work to maintain a balance in life, this is something that we could see happen again.

Having said everything above, I have to give it up to both ideas. The time and creativity put forth here is simply amazing. I will be especially interested as to how Second Life makes out financially with their L’s. It may not seem like cold, hard cash to you, but rest assured it is going to send the IRS in a tizzy as they try to figure out how they are going to tax this!

[tags]virtual,make believe,chat rooms,escape[/tags]