For as long as I can recall, Second Life has maintained a stance against ageplay. Now, with the introduction of a new Child Avatar policy, it seems the platform is reacting to a broader issue simmering within its virtual realms. However, there’s a sense that the policy doesn’t fully address the root of the problem.

Let’s clarify from the outset – we’re not discussing actual children here. It’s evident that the number of users under 18 in Second Life is relatively low, and the fraction that comprises actual children is even smaller. The question arises: Should Linden Lab assume responsibility for monitoring the real-life guardianship of its users’ children?

Turning back to the policy itself, personally, I’ve only created one toddler avatar in all my time in Second Life. Honestly, I don’t think Second Life is concerned about my diminutive, two feet tall avatar. The real target here appears to be avatars that blur the lines, those youthful teenage avatars clad in provocative attire and engaging in adult activities.

One might argue that simply prohibiting users under 18 from accessing Adult regions would suffice. However, the new policy, set to mandate a modesty layer on all “child avatars” by June 30, 2024, suggests otherwise. But what exactly constitutes a “child avatar”? According to American law, anyone under 18 is a child. So, if your avatar leans toward the younger side, could you find yourself in hot water?

In anticipation of these changes, I’ve begun reaching out to skin designers to inquire about updates for previously released products. Frankly, it strikes me as unnecessary for toddler/child skins to include private parts at all – they should have been excluded from the get-go. While my Bebe skin appears to be a blur with no discernible private parts, I’d feel more at ease if the designer updated it with painted-on underwear, just to be safe.

As Second Life rolls out these changes, one can’t help but wonder if they have the resources to effectively enforce them. Undoubtedly, a surge of abuse reports is on the horizon, whether valid or not. It’s clear that Second Life doesn’t wish to outright ban child avatars – family roleplay is a cornerstone of the community. From Zooby babies to pint-sized avatars, residents have been creating child avatars for years. My mini Gogo, for instance, is so cute.

So, here’s a plea to region designers: Please don’t ban “child avatars” on sight. Remember, most of us are well over 18, and child avatars are permitted on Moderate regions too. They’re only restricted from Adult regions, and if you opt to embody a child avatar, simply steer clear of those areas.

As I reflect on Second Life’s new child avatar policy, I find myself questioning its true effectiveness in ensuring children’s safety. While I appreciate the intention to create a secure environment, I can’t help but wonder about the practical implementation of the policy. Is it genuinely focused on protecting children, or is it more about managing Linden Lab’s image and legal liabilities? It’s a nuanced topic that deserves deeper exploration. If you share my curiosity or have concerns you’d like to discuss directly with Second Life, consider joining the first Community Roundtable with Second Life Leadership on May 20. It’s a chance to engage in constructive dialogue and seek clarification on any lingering doubts or questions.