19 Apr Software that guards virtual playgrounds in demand
Virtual worlds for children and teenagers — Web sites like Neopets, Club Penguin and Habbo — are a big business. On these sites, children create an avatar and, with it, explore an imaginary universe. They can play games, chat and decorate virtual rooms or other spaces.
By the end of this year, there will be 70 million unique accounts — twice as many as last year — in virtual worlds aimed at children under 16, according to K Zero, a consulting firm. Virtual Worlds Management, a media and trade events company, estimates that there are now more than 200 youth-oriented virtual worlds “live, planned or in active development.”
As the number of these virtual worlds grows, so, too, does the demand for sophisticated monitoring software and people, called moderators, who can act as virtual playground monitors. Tamara Littleton, chief executive of eModeration, a company based in London that provides moderation services, says the most common dangers that children and teenagers face online are bullying and young people’s own efforts to share personal information that could enable strangers to identify and contact them in the real world. Sexual predators are always a concern, she says, though she described the likelihood of a child being targeted by an adult with malicious intent as “statistically low.”
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