Second Life

Website review by
Conny Coon, Common Sense Media
Second Life Website Poster Image
Adult themes easily encounted in popular virtual world.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 42 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Positive Messages

Creative self-expression, exploration, and freedom abound and there are ample educational opportunities, including high-level computer programming. But there are often negative behaviors throughout the virtual world.

Violence

Multi-user gaming can be violent. Avatars are armed and can battle one another (usually with a medieval twist). The extent of combat and casualties depends on programming. There have been reports of virtual suicides and rape on the site in the past.

Sex

Although the site has set up an age verification system and a “Red Light District” that tries to confine adult content, it’s not foolproof. The site is rife with mature content, including sex products, role play, orgy rooms, and sex clubs, even though these areas are supposed to be flagged as “adult-only” and kept away from the general public areas (called “the mainland”). The default avatars are genderless, but genitalia can be purchased and avatars are often highly sexualized. Communication is done through text and voice chat, so there’s ample opportunity to inadvertently come across extremely graphic sexual discussions or comments.

Language

Freedom of expression is a core value in Second Life. Users chat with one another and there are no filters on chats or IM, although there are moderators. Even though users are expected to hold one another to a standard of appropriate behavior, there are a wide range of conversations occurring simultaneously, and anything can be said or overheard.

Consumerism

Consumption, shopping, and brands are a large part of the Second Life experience. The site's currency, Linden Dollars, can be bought with U.S. dollars, or earned. Storefronts, products (real and imaginary), and ads are abundant. Most games include ads that run before you can get to the game, and some of them link to other sites. Residents can also buy, sell, and develop virtual land. Some users make a profit, but many primarily spend. Many corporations (including Adidas, Toyota, Harvard Law School, and MTV) have a brand presence. A basic account is free; premium accounts are about $10 a month.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Discussions about drinking, drugs, and smoking occur via the chat functions. Beer, wine, and liquor logos are visible. Avatars are often drinking while socializing. In some of the adult areas, avatars are able to purchase and smoke marijuana and other drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the imaginative virtual world Second Life is an appealing hangout for kids of all ages, but is rife with adult-themes and conversations that are best left to the adults or older teens. There is no longer a Teen Second Life, which once was a safer, monitored virtual world with minimal adult content. Instead, everyone is now routed to SecondLife.com, where they are able to chart their own course and socialize (via text or voice) with any of the millions of registered users from all over the world who also hang there. Areas are rated PG or Mature, but without the restrictions that existed with the teen version, there’s more opportunity for teens to end up chatting with an adult posing as a kid or wandering into some of the adult areas that exist (potentially exposing them to brothels, pornography, etc.). Customizable 3-D avatars are a big draw, and options range from skin color and hair styles to costumes and bust size, so the customization possibilities are practically endless. The site is free to join, but it has limitations unless you upgrade to a monthly membership. The site’s currency, Linden Dollars, can be purchased with U.S. dollars or earned by selling created items.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCedric_Cross August 13, 2011

Immorality? In MY Secondlife? Deal with it.

Okay.... Why are children posting about this game? Well, no, not game, but still. Second life Has been an 18+ game for 8 years now. And yeah, there are a lo... Continue reading
Parent Written bykimmbafnp August 15, 2016

Porn in the supposedly 'no adult content" areas

All the reviews on common sense media were old, and upon reviewing the rules for Second Life, I gained the impression that things had changed and that there wer... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 10, 2011

Same as most of my reviews

I spent a while on the game and its not bad if your a mature 12+ kid, just don't go into adult area by changing the settings to general, report bad users... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byDoctorNicholae December 18, 2012

Don't even think about it

All I can say is that I started when I was only eleven. Ran a fairly successful business, had many happy customers. But there are malicious people out there, my... Continue reading

Is it any good?

The open-ended environment of this virtual community is part of SECOND LIFE'S appeal and charm, and there’s ample opportunity for kids to flex their creative muscles (though the tools to do so are somewhat clunky). Visitors will find socializing, entertainment, games, and abundant opportunities for learning (sit in on a classroom discussion, run a business, learn to play an instrument). Plus, they can buy, sell, and develop land; build structures, and shop. Avatars can even fly! Certainly, there’s nearly as much to do in this world as there is in the real world. But that’s what also makes it a dangerous environment for kids. Without the safeguards that were in place at Teen Second Life, teens are more likely to wander into -- intentionally or unintentionally -- adult-themed areas or overhear inappropriate conversations or chat with someone who isn’t who they claim to be. Yes, it’s an engaging, creative place full of endless possibilities. But left unchecked or unmonitored, that may also present the biggest concern.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what virtual communities are. What appeals to kids about using an avatar rather than a true identity? Families can also discuss consumerism in virtual worlds. What are users really getting by buying pretend stuff in this pseudo-world?

  • Families can also talk about the importance of protecting your privacy and staying safe in a virtual world. What steps can you take to stay private and safe?

  • How are virtual worlds places for marketers to sell virtually anything? How are products and brands tied into such sites, and what makes them such great arenas for selling stuff? How can you be a savvy consumer and not buy into the virtual hype?

Website details

For kids who love to connect online

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