Congressman Calls For Second Life Ban In Schools

Dennis Faas's picture

A member of Congress who campaigns for tighter controls on how children access the Internet says it should be illegal for schools and libraries to provide access to the online game Second Life.

Described as a 'virtual world', Second Life allows players to create their own characters and interact with others in a surprisingly wide range of activities. Some comedians and singers have given performances 'inside' the game, while one computing firm held Second Life job interviews for a real-world post.

But it's more adult activities such as (entirely fictional) drug dealing and prostitution which Mark Kirk objects to. He says there's too little restriction on how children can act in the game. According to Kirk, one of his aides signed up to the game claiming to be a 10 year old; as the game has a minimum age of 13, she was rejected. She then signed up again with the same details, except that she listed her age as 18. Within half an hour she'd found a "virtual rape room".

Kirk says the site is particularly dangerous because most parents are aware of social networking sites such as MySpace but are unaware of the game.

The comments come as Kirk tries to push through legislation which would require any school or library receiving federal subsidies for technology to block access to any "commercial social-networking Web site or chat room" unless being used educationally with adult supervision where appropriate.

Some opponents have pointed out that the definition of sites to be blocked is so broad it could include blogging sites or even Amazon, which allows users to produce a public profile. (Source:

Linden Lab, the firm behind Second Life, says it splits the game into teen and adult levels, meaning no player can access 'adult' areas without verifying their age. It's questionable how effective that process is though. (Source:

Ironically some education bosses in Britain seem to love the game a little too much. A local education authority in Manchester caused controversy by paying $10,000 of real money to build a virtual school designed to give young children an idea of what life in high school is like. (Source:

It's pretty clear Mark Kirk is using the media buzz around Second Life to hype up his legal campaigning. But given the clearly inappropriate nature of many parts of the game for children, it would be a smart move for the makers to make their age verification process as tough as practically possible.

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