It’s been about a year since the merger of the old Teen Grid with the main Second Life Grid. At the time, the news was greeted with a combination of optimism and worry. Some residents looked forward to the adolescents coming it over, seeing it as a chance to further fulfil the idea of Second Life as a place for education. A few offered to actively assist the teens. Others expressed worry, fearing an incident of teens in sexual escapades or caught looking at adult material on the Grid could get Linden Labs in serious trouble, or worse possibly someone arrested.
One year later, there haven’t been any incidents that the critics have feared. On the other hand, where are the teens? Among those offering help was the Isla Sonoita educational community. Josain Zsun announced at the time of the grid merger a “Teen in Residents” program in which those joining up would get skyboxes for six months plus 2000 Lindens. Getting in touch with Josain, he told the Newser none of the teens signed up for it, “Although announced several times in different related news groups, there were no takers.”
In his article on the subject, Daniel Voyager thought the teens had basically lost interest in Second Life and went elsewhere on the Internet. Others responding to him shared much the same view, one pointing out his daughter “didn’t want to hang out with a bunch of OLD people. One thought they as a whole left while those remaining were hanging out at sex clubs with older residents with similar mindsets.
Talking to club owner Nydia Tungsten, she had her own opinion, “They’re here, disguised as adults.” She had found several of them at her clubs and hangouts., “after a few signs, I confronted them and talked to them. Then they admitted it to me.” She told me after a “talking-to” they moved on.
Discussing things further with Nydia, she informed me the initial method of age verification, using one’s credit card number, social security number, drivers license, etc. had been quietly done away with. In it’s place was a simple question with a box for a checkmark affirming that the birthdate on the account was correct and over 18. That’s all, “they create avatars with false birth dates and since the verify is "click here if your over 18" and POOF from thirteen to 23 in a blink of an eye.”
For most of Second Life’s history, residents could come and go about freely more or less wherever they wished. Then a few years ago amid fears of the possibility of teenagers not telling the truth about their age and signing up, Linden Labs declared areas with explicit adult content a new “Adult” rating, and residents wanting access to those areas would have to be “Age Verified,” by giving Linden Lab a credit card number, social security number, drivers license, or similar proof of age. This move was not popular with residents, many whom complained over privacy grounds. If this information was somehow stolen from the Lab, there was the potential of people being fingered as traveling to pornographic areas.
To check Nydia’s story, I took another look at Age Verification. And indeed it had changed. No longer did you need some kind of ID. All you needed to do was click on a checkmark saying you indeed were 18 or over. No proof required. There really was nothing stopping a teen from lying about his or her age. Nydia did comment even if there was, all that was needed for a determined teen was to borrow a parent’s credit card.
Spotting teens in disguise isn’t always easy. While many use lines full of textspeak and acronyms, “U R LUSR! LOL!”, there are some who don’t. While some talk excessively about sex, “Where can I see the boobs?” unfortunately there are no shortage of adults whom haven’t quite grown up, and some teens are mature for their age and talk about it no more than anyone else. One should also keep in mind some adult residents have mental disabilities and may not be easy to tell apart from younger residents.
And what are the teens doing here? No doubt some are looking for sex clubs and girly bars. Others come here for pretty much the same reasons as other residents. But for some, unless they find others close to their age, Second Life’s attraction may fade.
And then there were a couple teens that got Nydia’s attention, “Two of the ones I found were experimenting because they didn't feel right about themselves in real life, their sexuality. Here, no one knows them, no kids in school to ‘out’ them and make their lives hell. I told them that their are real-life groups to help with that. But they were afraid.”
“So for someone to say ‘oh the teens went away to other things,’ no, they are still here among us on adult sims.”
3 hours ago