to Dangers Lurk in Virtual Playgrounds

In preparation for an afternoon at the park, Moms take several safety precautions with their children, from slathering sunscreen on their faces and holding their hands as they cross the street to offering the all-important “Don’t talk to strangers” reminder before their little one hits the swing set. Given the degree of their protectiveness, it would seem surprising to some that these same mothers are allowing their children to spend time online in virtual worlds where they can interact with strangers, create new personal identities and share personal information.



It’s clear that a mom’s lapse of protection in online playgrounds cannot be attributed to a lack of concern, but rather a lack of resources on navigating today’s online battlefields. And while the landscapes of our children’s playgrounds have certainly changed, one thing has remained constant- moms need to apply the same care to keeping her children safe in virtual worlds as she does in keeping them safe in the real world.



Here are 5 simple ways to protect your child in virtual playgrounds:



1. Determine the level of dialogue between players


The level and interactivity of conversation between players can vary between virtual worlds. Just as you would warn your child against speaking to strangers in a park, limiting the amount of conversation or the types of dialogue can protect your child from sharing too much personal information. Levels of communication range from pre-scripted conversations to fully free dialogue where the child types in their own words. Ensure your child’s safety by knowing levels of interactivity between members.



2. Select a site that engages moms as well


Many online virtual gaming sites have special sections or activities for moms. allows moms to send messages into the game to her daughter via email and computer screens inside the virtual world and even provides offline mother/daughter activities.



3. Watch for hidden financial dangers


Some online playgrounds lure children into activities with free subscriptions and then, once the child is engaged, require a fee to be paid in order to continue play.  Make sure you and your child understand what expenses lay ahead before engaging in registration and play.



4. Rewards, prizes and hidden treasures


Not every prize is a treasure in the eyes of the beholder, particularly if you are a mom.  For example, allows players to purchase breast augmentations and other plastic surgery procedures as a prize for winning games.  Make sure you approve of the treasures and motivations of the site your child is engaged in.


5. Select playgrounds that are supported by brands you trust


These days, it seems to be a marketing practice of companies to create virtual playgrounds to engage children in their brand. Naturally, these sites tend to reflect the values of the sponsoring brand.  It’s extremely important to select sites sponsored by brands you trust because you are entrusting them with your children.

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