I Just Got Beat Up!
IMVU is an avatar world/3D Chat/Social Network. I wrote about it a little after it was out of beta and had some serious concerns. I hadn't been back there since those early days and after reading an article about it, I decided to go back and check it out. There have been some changes for the better, but if my first trip back is any indication not a lot has changed.
If you click on Chat Now, you are randomly paired with another avatar. I found myself in the room with someone who opened with, "hey". I clicked on his home page and saw that he was a 20 year-old for TX.
I said, "hi, this is my first chat." Not exactly true, but I had forgotten so much about the interface since I was last there, it was like my first chat. His response was to walk up to me and begin beating me up! I said, "ouch?" and he said nothing. I followed with, "beating up on an old man?" (I'm assuming he visited my homepage and saw my age.) Still no reply, but he did walk up to me and tweak my ear. Again I tried to talk to him and asked, "what's with the bullying?" He left.
Actually, for me it was pretty funny to watch. I had absolutely NO idea how he got his avatar to do what it did and had no way of responding in kind, not that I would have. I can imagine what happens when two like minded immature individuals end up in the same room. Can you say, trouble?
My original concern has been answered by a change in their policy. Back then, you could search for anyone of any age. Now you can't search under for anyone under 18, but it wasn't the ability to search for teens that concerned me.
I sat down one day and searched state by state for anyone between 14 and 17 who was online at the time. Two things concerned me. First I was alarmed at the number of teens who were online during a time that they clearly should have been in school, (and probably were in school). But even that wasn't my real concern.
When you register, you have the word Guest tacked in front of your avatar's name. If you supplied credit card information and purchased your avatar, the Guest designation was removed. If I was gullible, I would have been shocked at the number of 13-17 year-olds that had given credit card information. Of course, some gave the information with the blessing of parents, some probably gave daddy's card information without permission, but my skepticism led me to believe that a significant number of the 13-17 year-olds were considerably older. The predator potential was significant.
When I first signed up, I thought the technology and concept was cool and kids would gravitate to it. I had concerns and I still have concerns. I'm not exactly a big fan of IMVU at this point, but I'll reserve further judgment until I spend more time there.