A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that registration is required to enter this virtual world, but there's no real age verification. Users are supposed to be over 14, but if kids enter a younger age during registration, the site gives them the option of going back to enter a new birth date. The site discourages swearing and advises users to never offer personal contact information, but it's possible that bad language could end up on the site, albeit briefly, during user conversations or on message boards. MTV says it removes links immediately if the content is out of line, and users are encouraged to report any misuse.
What's it about?
VMTV.COM, the cable network's online virtual world, lets fans create an avatar and interact with characters and locations from their favorite shows, including The Hills, The Real World, Pimp My Ride, and America's Best Dance Crew. Activities abound: You can teleport to show locations or buy virtual goodies like hot rods and clothes using virtual currency. Users can also create an event and invite friends, who can also invite friends. Frequent users can also apply to be volunteer "crew members," who host parties, offer advice to new members, and help promote things ranging from online band appearances to new sponsors.
Is it any good?
Not everything in vMTV.com hits the virtual mark. One misstep: The site's considerable sales component. In some sections, regular content is coupled with ads for DVDs of The Hills MTV show soundtracks.
But the site's biggest challenge is access. The site requires users to download an .exe file to enter the virtual world. It takes a considerable amount of time to get in -- and vMTV only works on PCs. At least for now, Mac users are stuck in the real world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why sites that don't constantly monitor chats and message board posts pose more of a risk than sites that approve all posts. What kind of things aren't OK to post? What kind of information should you never give out on a Web site, even if somebody asks?