Re: [SLED] OpenSim and children

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Re: [SLED] OpenSim and children

Aldon Hynes
Mark,

   Since you posted essentially the same message on both the Second Life
mailing list and the OpenSim Users mailing list, I am replying to both
lists.  I think this is an important topic to be discussed, but I fear that
too many of the discussions are based on lack of information.  More and more
reports are coming out about the nature of adult predators online.

   I would encourage you to start with Trends in Arrests of "Online
Predators" published by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at
University of New Hampshire, http://www.unh.edu/ccrc The report is more
focused on social networking sites than Second Life or OpenSim, but I
believe that the information applies equally well here.

   The key finding of this, and other similar reports is that children that
have been victimized by adult predators as a general rule knew that they
were meeting with the predator for sexual purposes.  From the summary at
ccrc "Most offenders were open about their sexual motives in their online
communications with youth.  Few crimes (5 percent) involved violence."

   While we do need to be careful to make an enivronment as safe as
possible, I believe that many go too far in limiting the educational
opportunities to children out of fear of the rare cases of sexual predation.

   Personally, if I were to have a public museum in an Open Sim, I would
make it as much as possible like a physical public museum.  I would not
place any requirements about who could enter the museum.  I would not do
background checks on a person before they could enter the museum. etc.
Instead, I would have docents and guards in the museum to make sure that
everyone could have as pleasent an experience in the museum as possible.

Aldon

-----Original Message-----
From: [hidden email]
[mailto:[hidden email]]On Behalf Of Mark W Dubin
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 3:09 PM
To: SL Educators ((The SLED List))
Subject: [SLED] OpenSim and children


Hello, I know this is NOT a Second Life question. However, there are
some who read this list who are interested in using Opensim grids in
addition to using SL, and I do not know any other way to readily
reach them. If you prefer, answer directly via e-mail to
[hidden email] and I will later post a summary if there is enough
response to warrant it.

This is more a philosophical question, than technical, but there may
be technical approaches to it. A public OpenSim grid allows access to
people of any age, adult or child. Then, the availability of both
chat and IM makes the site the equivalent of a public chat-room with
a private back-channel. This presents a situation in which adult
predators can approach children, with the attendant dangers. How can
this concern be approached? Any kind of "public" OpenSim is prone to
this issue, which will thus need a long-term, broad-based approach. A
specific example could be a museum.

A significant advantage of having a public museum on an OpenSim grid,
open to all, is that museums typically are valuable learning assets
for children. Allowing chat/IM enhances the experience by fostering
sharing of insights and questions. Thus, totally blocking chat and/or
IM limits the value of the site. Another approach could be to require
prior approval for each avatar that has access to the site. However,
this is impractical in terms of resources needed to accomplish it
(and difficulty in proving the nature of the requester), except in
very limited (essentially non-public) situations. Monitoring of all
the communication on a site is not practical (or even possible).
Further, attempts by the site owner to monitor or otherwise provide
security can leave one open to litigation.

A typical, hands-off approach is to provide warnings and do nothing
more. In the case of children, parents should know what their kids
are doing and teach them safe internet practices. It is essentially
analogous to going to a real, bricks-and-mortar museum, or store, or
public place. Realistically, this may be the best that can be done.
Or is it? I am interested in hearing ideas from others.

thanks, Mark
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