A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
HIGHRISE – VIRTUAL WORLD is a freemium social networking app that lets users create and customize cartoon avatars of themselves and interact with other users online. Users can also create and customize their own “rooms” for other users to visit and are rewarded with in-app currency for gathering “likes.” The app offers a wide range of room furnishings, clothing, and accessories for sale in its in-app store, and lets players make Facebook-style posts and designate them as public or private. A searchable news feed lets users search for content by keyword and hashtag, and users are encouraged to complete reward-giving missions by socializing and visiting other users' rooms. Users can also join or create “Crews” (essentially, online cliques) and can “prevent the peasant masses from ever entering” their rooms with various access settings.
Is it any good?
This app's childlike take on Sims-like gameplay has the potential to create an unsafe online environment for your teen and is doing so in spades. To start, there are plenty of possibilities for kids to feel left out and bullied. The app rewards you for being “liked” and being part of a Crew. The former's more likely to happen the more attention-getting your avatar is (i.e., the more gear you buy), and joining a Crew means asking for invites. Rooms can be made invite-only, which can be a good safety mechanism, but can also be used to exclude people out of spite. Of course, these grade school politics are the least of your worries. Far more concerning is the prevalence of sexually explicit talk. Users create nightclub rooms and “dirty” rooms where people discuss things that would make a truck driver blush. Even outside these designated places, profanity (words like “f—k,” “pu—y,” and “s—t”) is rampant. News feeds also contain lots of commentary about drugs, drinking, and other users' physical attractiveness. The result is a near-constant barrage of judgment, negativity, and sexual expectation. On a purely technical note, the app's inconsistent, obscure interface makes it hard to figure out how to do things like build and customize rooms, but this is really beside the point. In a controlled environment, Highrise – Virtual World might be a fun, inclusive place for kids and teens to socialize; as it is, it's a sure bet for raising their anxiety and lowering their self-esteem.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to handle uncomfortable online situations, including ones on Highrise - Virtual World. Do your teens know what to do if an online conversation turns to sex? What's okay and not okay to post in forums like this?
Talk about how online communities affect self-esteem. Do you know how to process rejection or exclusion from online cliques?
Discuss online peer pressure. Can you resist pressure to do and say things you know aren't right?
For kids who love socializing and virtual worlds
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.