Why Scoble is Wrong About Second Life’s Kid Policy

Scoble posts about the Second Life rule prohibiting anyone under 18 from using the regular version of Second Life. As Pathfinder Linden, Second Life’s internet ambassador, explained in a Comment to one of my prior posts about the sin-tricity of Second Life, there is a separate Second Life for 13-17 year olds, where no one less than 13 or older than 17 is allowed.

Scoble understands the reason for the rules, but he says he doesn’t like them:

The thing is, I don’t necessarily buy into the rules of society, or the rules of Linden Labs. If I don’t mind my son getting into a Poker game, or seeing a virtual sex act, isn’t that my right as a parent to let my son experience those things?

No. Our puritanical society has set up rules and regulations about such things. If you enter a Las Vegas casino you aren’t allowed to let your kids sit down and play backjack. At least not until they are 21.

I do think the rules suck, though. This is a virtual world. Why do we need to live with first-world rules?

The problem, of course, is that they can’t let Robert’s kids in without letting everyone else’s kids in. And while I have never thought of myself as a Puritan, I don’t want my kids running around in Second Life. Sure, I might one day decide that one or more of my kids are responsible enough to be exposed to this sort of thing, but the only manageable approach with kids’ access is all or none. To try to set up some sort of a parental approval process would be a nightmare. Kids would hang around looking for a willing grownup to sign them in much like we used to hang around outside a convenience store looking for an 18 year old to buy us a six-pack.

If Second Life didn’t have and enforce this rule, thousands and thousands of kids would find a way into Second Life without their parents’ knowledge or permission and you would have a completely unacceptable mix of adults (who unfortunately always seem to gravitate to the R rated stuff- or worse) and kids (who should not be allowed to see or participate in that sort of stuff).

Sure, the lawyers probably told Second Life they’d better put some protections in place, because sadly the internet is a dangerous place for kids. But the fact that Second Life has some controls that may actually work, as opposed to the smoke and mirrors used by MySpace, is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Scoble, here’s all you need to ask yourself to see it my way: if the internet had existed when we were kids, how much time would we have spent trying secretly to find the very stuff we now want to keep from our kids?

I have no doubt that Scoble’s son is a responsible kid who can handle Second Life. But I bet he has some friends who are not and could not. Open the Second Life gates and there would be a ton of other kids running around who are not and could not. Not to mention the kids who aren’t really kids.

Second Life actually needs to do more, not less, to keep our kids out of the adult Second Life and to keep interlopers out of the teen Second Life.

They aren’t creating the patterns of behavior, they are simply reacting to them.