I can see a lot of negative reviews on here so I'd think I'd pipe in as SL is apparently often under attack by IMVU. They want you to disregard it before you try with cutting remarks instead of truthful objective criticism. I'd like to open a window of truth on this progressive technological platform.
I joined SL myself back when I was 13. I currently parent my nephew who is disabled and has very little access to the real world due to severe agoraphobia and cervical contortion. He really loves it, just as I did.
Second Life really is what it sounds like, it's not a game, it's not a website. SL is a full scale immersive environment for all ages above 14 that having a buzzing imagination or have special needs (or both!) It's not for some teenagers, but it's great for those you want to prepare for real life. In a way, SL is a lighthearted yet more fantasy-permitting simulation of real life. You can even buy land and houses, but I do not recommend it unless you spend quite some time in the world, regardless of your age. SL is also easy to control by a timed firewall that prevents your child from using SL outside allowed times, just like a website. It's not for everyone, try with patience.
I know some people go on about how sexual the 'site' is but SL is merely real life online, it's a world not a site. To attack SL for this is likely attacking the entire internet for certain sites. SL could easily be renamed to "The 3D Internet". Adult areas are very carefully listed under a Adult section that cannot accessed by registrants under 18 and a Moderate section that cannot be accessed by registrants under 16. To be perfectly honest, the Moderate regions are often quite appropriate for 12+ as most region's graphics limit the appearance of any violence to cartoon-like violence. Though, there is hardly any violence in Second Life, least outside of Moderate sandboxes (where I've only ever seen effective trolls/griefers) and specifically combat-rated 16+ Moderate sims. If you have a child who lies about their age to access the Adult / Moderate areas, then it is no different to a child lying about their age to get into a bar in real life or onto some adult/violent website (which is very easy outside of but not in SL!)
Second Life is always full of friendly people, though I encourage anyone sensitive to keep away from the subcultures unless they're involved in them outside of SL. These include but are not limited to: Furry, Goth, Vampire and Were. You're not likely to find many of these subcultures in a PG region, however.
Of things you can actually do in SL:
* Build - this one is so CRUCIAL in these modern times for creative children and adults. We are heading into the 3D-5D world of art and design and as much as crayons are useful in sketching, 3D modelling and sculpting skills are the future. You can import meshes and sculpties from almost any 3D program such as Blender (which is free), ZBrush and Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya. SL is a great way to feel committed, to want to build and you can even Script and Animate, import these to SL. You can also import pictures to SL (e.g. textures, art for showcase, screenshots, patterns and 3D object maps). I must note that importing anything costs 10L$ but it encourages the artist to be more careful and efficient with their work. However, modelling (constructing with blocks - a great start!) is absolutely free. You can build in the sandbox which is temporary until you save it to your inventory but you can also rent or purchase land to host entire exhibitions. It's creative, intelligent and teaches maturity.
* Scripting - so much this! Scripting is a form of high-level programming and will teach your children how to manipulate code and objects in 3D-4D space. The syntax of the built-in coding environment is very much Java / C++ like and there is a whole wiki of support for it. It's a great way to perk creative interest to your children and gift them secretly the skills of a modern day computer programming genius! The skills carry over into scripting and programming skills outside of SL.
* Education - There are lingual classes, art classes, science classes, museums, art galleries, tutorials, educators and all kinds of awesomeness in SL. The projects of these educational facilities often means great places to visit for inspiration as well. Frequently educators try to realistically rebuild historical, conceptual and scientific environments even, really great!
* Business Skills - This can be anywhere between easy and hard in a manner is speaking, SL is a great way to use your creative skills (as mentioned above) to make and sell things in-world and you can sell things as-is, meaning whether you make freebies or fully fledged projects, you have room to form a business in SL. Business doesn't have to cost you a cent in SL, as long as someone wants to buy your creations or services, it's up to you how you go about it. As long as you don't frequently lie about what your product does, you won't need to take any precautions. It's great to teach your children key life skills and whether you buy L$ from real money or just earn the in-game, your children will soon enough wise up to how they should buy anything that might interest them. Things to purchase are another resident's creation or service, which can be anything of interest permitted within the region's rating.
SL is ultimately cheaper yet far more productive than any other video game or website out there. If I had to say, coupling the pro-educational fun side of websites like YouTube with SL will be the ultimate package substitute for any game ever. SL can suck people in, just like anything else that's brilliant and immersive but it's going to give so much back if you reward your child for what they achieve. My nephew is really so much happier since I showed him SL, he has friends, he has a great portfolio for such a young age and his aspirations are so high. SL is certainly future-proof and I would also encourage those over the age of 18 to try this, especially if they have social difficulties.
Oculus Rift is also a good thing to try out with SL, it's really pretty if you have a decent graphics processor in your computer.
People sometimes bash SL for its graphics but SL has the best graphics you could have for a world made by both amateurs and professionals. It's got the best graphics for what it is (over say There, Active Worlds, Worlds, etc), the most disappointing things about SL is the physics engine and lag that can be experienced in some locations, but this is mainly caused by the fact everything in SL is an object the updates for everyone at once. Each time someone edits an object, it updates for everyone, too so really this is not SL's fault as it's just a con of what's required to have such a world.
I'd like to remark that even PlayStation Home tried to copy Second Life but it was too hard to support, keep up to date, expand, etc. SL simply unbeatable for its non-game based success, it's the biggest Virtual World to this date and has been for a decade. SL has so much work put into it, I'd say it's got at least half the world's economy in it for for the amount of hopes it has given to future worlds just like it. Already its owners, Linden Lab, has got Project Sansar coming along the why. VR is the future and every member of the future generation should be allowed to involve themselves now and have a head-start if you ask me! I don't know how anyone could bash SL and then act like a 2D website is somehow more better, it's like comparing apples and oranges. SL even has voice chat and internal games for many age groups. Voice chat can be turned off, I don't use it, personally and it's the only real exploit I can think of. The rating for SL should be the same as real life because it depends where you go and who you're with. Any glitch you find is more likely to humor you, such as flying chairs or walking through a wall while stuck in a maze of a place. For all the VWs and MMOs out there, SL is the least consumerist, you aren't obliged to buy anything, you can make it if you work hard enough (which I do recommend since you'll appreciate things more), I've only ever paid for avatars myself. SL is a creative encouragement and a project vehicle. For anything I do ever buy, I make sure it goes to a creator I trust and support and stupidity is not an age, try before you buy or just consider how much it means for you. I've never spent more than a single PlayStation game's worth in money. And unlike, say PS Home, there are no expiration dates for SL and ultimately the creators can import into OpenSim, so anything you make in SL isn't very easily lost if you're careful with it. Don't pay attention to amateur videos of SL, they are taken in adult areas usually and rarely do residents make YT videos (besides trolls) because most decent people feel worried about recording someone else's work, though creators and some streamers do have decent videos. Note also it's hard to record SL smoothly while on a higher graphics mode in high pixel resolution or it appears choppy just like with many similar forms of online 3D software. The best thing to do is try it.
SL's primary audiences are:
Teens who need more creativity in their life, skilled yet or not.
Teens with special needs who can't immerse themselves offline too well.
Teens who want to grow up fast and mature but have great fun.
Adults with social difficulties or special needs.
Adults trapped in contrary lifestyles that need a online subculture to fit into.
Yes - adults who don't get out much and need adult things (children DO NOT get access to this).
Later age teenagers who need to learn more construction than destruction.
Things that get instantly banned on SL:
Adults roleplaying as children in sexual situations.
Condoning or permitting pedophilia.
Adults attacking children in general.
Persistent griefing, trolling and/or cyber-bullying.
Underage members in adult regions (which requires lying about age).
Sexual things or explicit conversation in a PG-13 area.
The attacking of minorities and protected groups.
Religious conversion and/or extremist groups.
Gangs/fams/mobs (one of the things that killed PlayStation Home).
SL has special admins known as Lindens which are plentiful (you can search the word Linden in resident search if you don't believe me!) some are more voluntary and some are more employed. There is a hierarchy to support and anti-abuse. You can also ask Linden Lab via support and even via telephone. SL is part of a fully fledged business, it's not some little website, it's a technological innovation used by and used in many universities. The Lindens support many aspects of SL, being such a massive and widespread world. SL uses a grid and has its own map, an easy to use search, etc. You can alternative viewers which can be modified to benefit and protect you and your child in many ways including privacy. To be honest, however, considering the structure of SL and how disinterested people are on any website within any small period, I wouldn't worry. While indeed SL has the ability to chat, it's more about creative collaboration, unlike say IMVU where there is hardly any world there to productively alter. Since they're always bashing SL, I thought I'd add a little footnote.
WARNING: I'd like to state a warning over IMVU vs Second Life conflicts. IMVU is owned and managed (e.g. by Jon Watte) by a subculture known as Furries (a form of cartoon animal roleplayers) who are not always clean as a internet subculture. IMVU often attacks SL for being out of control but IMVU has little protection for under 18. IMVU owns a cluster of virtual websites aimed at perverts including the animal porn-filled FurAffinity. If you do your research you will discover IMVU's owners are endorsed with satanic-like persons who are trying to convert their young members into autozoophiles and zoophiles for consumerist community economy (as they charge via commissioned created works). I recommend that in both SL and IMVU or any VW you keep your children far away from the Furry subculture. Do not fear SL and monitor your children if you don't believe me. IMVU tries to aim at children with their Bratz-doll esque avatars but yet often apply skimpy clothes and neko outfits. I'm not even religious myself and yet I can say these guys are the embodiment of the beast.
Please keep to Second Life, Worlds, There or Active Worlds (though SL is much more open and creative if you explore) and ignore the decadent IMVU supporters. SL has been trying its hardest to remove these subcultures, unlike them and children as I will say again, do not have access to 18+ regions. Please research against the rumors. I always believe eyes rule better than prejudice. Moove is also a website to avoid, such websites who compete with SL genuinely do become pervert heavy because they lack the creative environment. You'll find that SL cannot be used for sex unless you deliberately go out of your way to buy virtual genitals, as well! I encourage everyone to leave bad reviews for FA and IMVU as those are genuinely websites who try to ensnare children. Review the demographics also, as above and below.
See here for a few of the top SL destinations: