According to eMarketer, 24% of the 34.3 million US child and teen Internet users will visit virtual worlds once a month in 2007. eMarketer predicts that this will rise to 34% in 2008 and by 2011, 53% will do so.
What makes virtual worlds appealing to young people? eMarketer suggests it is all about “connecting and communicating”. I think we must get a bit deeper and not miss the masking phenomenon. Virtual world legitimates children to adopt alternative identities. It is by all means a phenomenon we should be aware of. For adults to hide behind another identity is one thing, but having our kids playing with a constant substitute not originally theirs to create is another.
I am afraid that this is a trend we should follow. I believe Kids will find virtual worlds fascinating platforms to play “imagine” with. Marketers will surely get involved and add their effect. I have no doubt that our kids will grow up to be “social” creatures we can’t even imagine.