After getting over the fact that Reuters has a SL site, I read the first 6 articles that drew my attention. They were:
-Frustrated Virtual Agencies Look Beyond Second Life
-At VW08, Kids are the Focus
-Nickelodeon explores virutal worlds, including Spongebob
-IBM to host private SL regions
-Digital Entertainment Survey: 48% of Britons have never Heard of SL
-Our Imaginary, Hotter Selves (from Newsweek, linked to SL Reuters site)
I was sort of shocked as to how virtual worlds are being targeted to children. Probably because I started using the internet regularly once I hit high school, not when I was still watching Nickelodeon. These children now have their own virtual world, which in a sense is a good thing, because some virtual worlds do not have rules, so the content may not be appropriate. But is it a good thing to let children spend hours and hours in another world, rather then focusing on their "real" life, here and now? Aren't people worried about obese children? Shouldn't we be encouraging children to play outside and be active rather than sit in front of a computer screen for hours? Sure, parents can try to place limits or use computers as rewards for good grades, etc, but maybe a virtual world isn't where a child should spend his time. He should be learning social skills from real kids in the real world, rather than with the perceived "real people" in a fake world.
The other article I found interesting was the "Hotter selves" article in Newsweek, where they talked about the Proteus effect. People were given avatars in a study, some were hot and some were average. the people that had hot avatars were more "courageous" in real life and thought they were "hotter" and more apt to attract hot people in real life. I hadnt heard of the proteus effect, but it makes sense. I have experienced it, not via a virtual world, but through work (which is a different part of my world than say, school). If i am at work, (starbucks) and someone checks me out (a hot stranger, say), i feel attractive. My attractiveness (or lack thereof) doesn't change when I walk out of Starbucks, but I feel better about myself, even if nothing has changed. It is interesting that the same concept (more or less) can be applied to virtual worlds. The article suggested that avatars can be used for "therapeutic" purposes to lift people's self esteem in real life. And when I read that, I asked myself "sure, but how long does the effect last?" and then in the last sentence, the article said "we don't know." That would be an interesting study. To see how long people feel good about themselves when their avatar is "hot."