You’ve heard the expression “They are as different as night and day“? Well, that saying applies to the two grids in Second Life. The oldest and most diverse grid is the main grid, also known as the adult grid. This grid was put online in 2003. Over the years it has taken on a variety of neighborhoods and “districts”. Some players are very artistic and create some truly amazing things. Flying over the landscape of Second Life you are as likely to see giant shopping malls as you are giant dragons. There are stores for just about everything you can imagine, and some that would make you blush.
The average age of the traditional Second Life player is much higher than other MMO’s. This demographic, and the ability to create custom avatars, clothes and animations have contributed to a burgeoning “red light district” in Second Life. There were a rash of media stories about a year ago about this adult subculture in Second Life. Linden Labs defintely saw this coming, as they launched a new second Second Life grid about this same time. This new grid is the Teen Second Life grid.
The Teen Second Life grid is only for ages 13-17. There is a zero-tollerance policy towards mature content, which includes gambling games and nudity. Teen Second Life is governed by a strict Code of Conduct, not unlike that of a school district.
These rules are known as “The Big 10”
1. Respect Your Fellow Residents
2. Stay Anonymous
3. Keep Your Password to Yourself
4. Respect Residents’ Privacy
5. Keep It Clean
6. Don’t Harass
7. Don’t Assault
8. Don’t Disturb the Peace
9. No Global Attacks
10. Use Alternate Accounts Responsibly
If you break the rules there are stiff penalties (quoted from the Teen Second Life Terms of Service):
“Generally, violations of the Teen Community Standards will first result in a Warning. If you continue to break the rules you will receive an Account Strike and a Suspension, which means you’ll be temporarily removed from Second Life. We’ll let you know when you have received an Account Strike by sending you a notecard and an email. After 3 Account Strikes your Second Life account will be permanently closed. If you use Teen Second Life to participate in anything illegal your account will be closed immediately.”
Not only will they close your Teen Second Life account if you violate these rules, any other accounts on the main grid will also be closed, and you will likely be banned from the game.
Linden Labs was very wise to open this second “teen only” grid. After I stopped playing the game, my kids took over my account. I have a lifetime account because I BETA tested the game prior to its launch. When I read all the stories last year about the adult content seeping into Second Life, I changed my password and told my kids they could no longer use my account. About that same time Teen Second Life was released, and they’ve been playing on that grid ever since. The only thing that they did not like about moving to the teen grid is that they were unable to bring all their items they had accumulated under my account with them to their new avatars.
My kids are responsible netizens of Teen Second Life, and they report any abuse they encounter to a Linden. Linden’s are employees of Linden Labs who patrol Teen Second Life. Incidents are quickly addressed and appropriate action taken if rules are broken. I have absolutely no reservations about letting my kids play on the Teen grid.
Unfortunately, adults cannot visit the teen grid. With our PacRimX project, our island has to be set to private so the adults cannot leave the island. So where does this leave the curious educator wanting to explore the Second Life experience? Your only choice is to download the Second Life client, login to Second Life, and avoid those areas of the game that are clearly in the Red Light districts.
Just as with any major metropolitian area, there are good areas and bad areas on the main grid. When you find an area you want to come back to, set a landmark (the SL version of a bookmark on the Internet). As you encounter other educators online, add them to your friends list.
Join the listserv’s, read the blogs, and learn about the community. It would be a terrible thing to avoid this experience because of the seedy areas that exist in the game. And just remember, you will never develop a K-12 education area on the main grid. Any project that you create will be on the teen grid on a private island.
With the right guides you can tour the best locales in Second Life. Keep a bookmark to our resources page, and visit the other blogs and sites listed here and on other Second Life education sites. The return on investment is well worth the risk when it comes to exploring the educational uses of Second Life.