Where the Internet was once limited to chat rooms and Usenet groups, it now is home to a number of virtual worlds. These virtual worlds are precisely what the name implies--self-contained universes where nearly anything is possible. However, many of these worlds are not appropriate for teens. If your teen is interested in virtual worlds, you will want to direct them to places that are safe and age appropriate.
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Teen Second Life
"Second Life" is perhaps the most famous virtual world, but it is no place for teenagers, housing a lot of adult content. Fortunately, there is "Teen Second Life" at teen.secondlife.com. "Teen Second Life" is restricted to those between the ages of 13 and 17. It also comes with parental controls. "Teen Second Life" is a place where teens not only interact with one another, they can also create content from clothing to buildings. Teen Second Life is free unless you want to own land, in which case you must purchase a premium membership.
"Habbo Hotel" at habbo.com is a cartoon-style virtual world for teenagers. The world takes the form of a large hotel that has everything from a lobby to guest rooms to pools. "Habbo Hotel" features text-based chat and is heavily moderated, ensuring a safe environment for your teen. The world itself can be accessed for free, but objects in the world must be purchased with virtual currency for sale in real currency.
"Whyville" at whyville.net is an educational virtual world for teens. It is based on playing educational games that allow teens to earn virtual money, known as "clams." "Whyville" has everything that you would expect to see in the nonvirtual world from a beach, a town hall, and suburbs to a newspaper and senators. "Whyville" is entirely free to all.
"Free Realms" at freerealms.com is a virtual world for the teenager interested in fantasy and role playing. The virtual world is highly customisable from avatars to buildings. Teens in "Free Realms" can raise pets, race against one another, or go on a number of fantasy quests built in to the game. Access to the world itself is free, though you can purchase access to additional content.
"Wizard 101" at wizard101.com is the place for the Harry Potter-fan in your family. Teens can create their own virtual wizard-in-training. From there, they can get involved in different quests for the purpose of defending Wizard City. Introductory areas of the virtual world are available for free, while more challenging areas require subscription-based access.
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