Pros and Cons of IMVU (warnings and advice included)
I don't mind it, but there are a few pros and cons, and unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros. The sexual content is a bit overboard, especially in chat rooms and some groups, though luckily a some people put "18+" or "XXX" or "Rated R" in their group titles or in certain threads. Sadly, due to curiosity and natural rebellion, children will lie about their age and be accepted into these groups/rooms, even if the creator makes a homepage check or group check on the members. I'm a member, and while most groups aren't focused on sex, the ones that are are a problem. The viruses that are interconnected with the IMVU 3D chat is also a problem; they crash computers at least two weeks after installation, and slow down the computers due to the sizes of the files. Predators aren't likely to seek out your children, but just in case, it is best to keep personal information to a minimum, which means limiting the things you put on your homepage or setting it on "Friends Only" or having it so that you and only you can view your homepage, and only putting people you know and trust as friends. Naturally, that's common sense. As for parents' concerns about child safety, if you inform your child about the dangers of Internet predators and viruses(preferably starting at a young age; the younger they learn, the more instinctive the information becomes), they may think you're being a worrywart, annoying, or over-dramatic, but they will absorb the information. The customer service for IMVU is virtually non-existent; the only way to get the CEO or other members of the company to listen to your complaints, you must try almost everything, even if you're a dedicated member that's been on the site since it first began. Also, the “Help Tickets” in IMVU only give you a computer-created response, if any at all. The complaints in the forums are given an equally mechanical response, advising the member(s) to file a “Help Ticket”. However, IMVU is not all negative. Like all social networking sites, you can interact with people from around the world and make new friends, as well as keeping in touch with old ones. Unlike most, you can create virtual products and gain computer graphics skills. You can also enhance your writing skills and let your creativity blossom, though it is easy to get hooked to the idea of constant creative juices flowing in and around you, just as you can get hooked on Facebook applications and MySpace groups That does not mean IMVU is necessarily addictive; it's just fun, though it could be addictive to many. It's easy to become engulfed in the virtual world, to have it mean more than the real world, like many other games. The nudity is a problem, and I know first-hand that if another Avatar is showing nude or sexual content, you WILL see it, even without the "Access Pass" or "VIP Membership". If you're an aspiring writer or graphics creator, IMVU is great as a creative or educational outlet. If you're smart about keeping your personal information(for those that don't know, that includes your full name, age, birthday, address, school/work, and appearance) to a limit, it is a great way of meeting new people and staying in touch, as I stated before. IMVU credit-based websites and companies, like those of other virtual currencies, make money from the members by offering better deals for credits than the company itself. The language in the site is not censored as it should be, probably to help keep the size of the site to a minimum. Virus protection is highly recommended, preferably from Norton, Ad-Aware, and/or AVG, and the temptation to download the 3D Chat is probably one best ignored. Viruses can also be transferred through trusted links, so run virus scans regularly to catch any signs of viruses(if you download the Chat or not) so you can get rid of it before it can cause more than minimal damage to your computer, if any. Sticking to groups that seem appropriate – or buying products that are appropriate – for your age group will keep the sexual/drug/alcohol/violence exposure to an equally appropriate rate. Though it might seem a pain or unnecessary, if you're under 18, it would help if your parents were kept informed of any threats, inappropriate messages, disturbing content, or other things that make you feel uncomfortable; 1) so they trust you more, 2) so they can help, if possible, and/or 3) so they can inform the police if the messages/content continues. These are just suggestions, mostly for PCs since Macs are more immune to viruses, though are recommended for both, though I'm not an expert. These are just observations and recommendations from a member of IMVU.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking