Avatar chat’s downside

For some teens it's harmless fun, for others IMVU.com's chat-by-avatar (an animated character that represents you online) can be pretty explicit. How good or bad the experience is depends on the user, and there are some sexually exploratory teens in the site mixing it up with adult users (there has been a lot of discussion about this in our ConnectSafely.org forum). Here's the first news story I've seen about its darkside for teens, a pretty grainy, local story at TheDay.com in Connecticut in which a police investigator logged into a teen user's account and found links to avatars engaged simulating sex. Here's a review of IMVU at the IMSafer blog, which also mentions the risqué clothing on many female avatars, most of which seem to have body shapes that even Barbie would fantasize about. [IMVU is the second site reviewed in the IMSafer post; the first is another site with a definite downside for teens: Webcam site Stickam.com.]

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