You’ve been exploring Second Life, and things are going fine.
But suddenly you find yourself barred from some land or other, because you’re not the proper age. Or because Second Life doesn’t think you’re the proper age.
Just how do you deal with this?
Age Verification Overview
There are two types of “ages” in Second Life that users need to be aware of.
The first is the age of the account, how long it’s been since the user joined Second Life.
This “age” serves a number of purposes, notably restricting new users from finding themselves in over their heads, and restricting old users from cashing in on features meant to help the new people.
Of course, if you happen to create an account and then barely use it, you just might find yourself the worst of both sides.
The other age is that of the users themselves.
Linden Labs, creators of Second Life, introduced a feature in 2007 to identify and verify the ages that the users claimed to be.
The idea behind the age verification is simple enough: find out how old a given user is, restrict them from entering age-inappropriate areas. If you’re an adult, you can go practically anywhere. But if you’re a child, even a child with a parent’s permission, there are some areas that you simply can’t enter. That makes sense; a responsible parent wouldn’t let their thirteen-year-old go into a topless bar in the real world, would they? Granted, anyone under 16 isn’t permitted to use Second Life, except in specific areas.
Regardless of the age limitations on the account, the age verification acts like the rating system at a movie theater: you’re not allowed to see that Rated X movie unless you’re an adult. Or at least, they’re not supposed to let you in.
There seems to be some question about the safety of age verification.
Users might not wish to enter their birthdate and other potentially sensitive information online, and often with good reason. There are far too many hackers who can send out phishing emails to trick users into giving up this information, and many a site’s database has been hacked, with no telling what information was taken.
In spite of these risks, there are reasons why the system is perfectly safe, or as safe as any website can be.
There is no reason to believe that Linden Labs is any less secure than a typical shopping site. There are plenty of details the average user might provide to other sites, so why should they be unwilling to provide that same information to Second Life?
Unless, of course, the user merely seeks to limit the number of sites that has this information, which leads to the other point: this information is completely voluntary. A user is not required to enter such details as a birthdate.
The only real drawback is that a user who does not verify their age will be restricted from certain lands rated at an adult level. Depending on their personal exploring habits, some users may not find this a drawback at all.
End of Ages
Initially, there were multiple options to verify one’s age. Over time, the options changed for multiple reasons: to fix bugs, to factor in user access, or simply to make things easier or more secure.
But it would seem, as of July 9th, that Linden Labs did away with Age Verification.
When you log in to the Second Life website, the option to verify is gone. When you look at their Knowledge Base, the Age Restriction articles have been heavily revised, to eliminate any reference to the Verification option.
On the one hand, some of these changes could be beneficial to users. Landowners who have adult content are now absolutely required to restrict users under 18 from accessing their lands, regardless of what other information the users might have provided. In this respect, it would be the same as that movie theater barring the child from buying a ticket for a X-rated movie.
On the other hand, all that Second Life requires now is to enter one’s birthdate. There is no need, and no menas, to “confirm” that that really is their age. And some people do lie about their ages. Perhaps they don’t wish to give such sensitive information online. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it’s that thirteen year old who wishes to access adult content without their parents knowing.