Just a quick post, in part prompted by becoming aware of Izzy Neis' work (here) on online community and kids... Being a father myself now this is sort of especially important to me (amazing how important kids get when you're around one a lot). In part too, I wanted to call attention to the recent launch of Ten Ton Hamster an online games community site for kids and their parents (and that's also sort of similar to the importance of kids as noted above...).
And I guess there are a couple of things that I've been trying to think about with respect to kids and online worlds and all that stuff..
First: the obvious parts... they're coming (or already here) there are lots of them, and they view this experience, their adventures in online worlds, in a fundamentally different way than I do, who have not grown up with these experiences as part of the norm. Although too... in some ways I'd also want to argue that they highlight what the real nature of these experiences are for anyone: we take them as part of our world. We, in the dim recesses at the back of our brains, accept this sensory input as just as real as any other. And, of course, in many ways it clearly is just that. For my son this will always have been as much a part of his world as the telephone, or movies, are to me.
And second... that especially with regard to kids... we need to think about our sheparding of their experience in different ways than we think about our own experience of these worlds (or any media). We need not only to understand the importance and character of virtual worlds as social spaces, but also the importance of some sort of community management there (or not... certainly some communities are self-determining, or unguided). And then we have to factor in parents, informing them, and how all of these pieces fit in to the optimal experience of these new innocent people venturing forth.
So, just wanted to raise the issue, and point to a couple of places that are starting to talk about what all this means. I see it as a sort of staggering new landscape. And that... well, they'll be telling us, soon, what this means!