Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And the wall comes down. End of the teen grid.

If you haven’t heard, recent comments by LL CEO Mark Kingdom (M Linden)and chairman/founder Philip Rosedale (Philip Linden) indicate that second life plans to merge the current Teen Grid into the main grid. No firm plans for implementation or dates of course. As usual we hear about these things with no details so people’s minds can run wild. What will it mean? Expunging all adult content from the main grid? Thousands of lawsuits involving 13 year olds wandering into the wrong area? Reliance on the broken, and will never ever work, age verification system? Hell anything is possible right?

So why would the lindens want to merge the grids in the first place? The lindens are big on promoting education as in getting real world educators using the platform. Merging the grids makes it much easier to implement classes and makes it all the more attractive for educators. There is also some want for families to be able to meet up on the same grid. Some parents are unhappy that the teen grid is so closed that they can’t even check up on what their children are up to in world.

The other argument with merging the grids is that teens can just lie about their age and get on the main grid anyway so why bother with running two grids. While this is true I’m not happy with this as a reason. This logic leaves out the fact that some teens and certainly their parents want a level of protection. It simply isn’t right to suddenly turn the “good” teens over to the wolves. So how can they be protected from the Adult content?

Purging the main grid of all adult content is a joke. If that’s the plan then they might as just shut down the main grid and only run the teen grid. Even if they scrubbed the grid Disney clean they would have to approve all new content uploads as well as deal with chat, IMs, and Voice. So with Adult verification broken beyond all hope how can they protect minors in the new combined grid? By verifying the minors rather than verifying the adults.

If a teen with their parents’ permission wants to access a safer combined grid, they will need to give their real age and be classified as a RL teen in second life using the same methods to secure access to the teen grid now. This could allow areas of SL not verified as safe to be blocked to minor access. It could also allow a way for the rest of us to know a teen when we see one, either by looking at their profile or some sort of avatar marking like the white dot we have over people in voice chat now. 
While imperfect this would allow for the kind of protections one would expect in RL. As an adult you would know when they are around teens and would at least have the choice of acting appropriately.  A teen might work around the system by camming beyond where they are allowed, but at least they will not stumble into an adult area. Beyond this the imperfect nature of teen/adult interactions would rule.

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