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Introducing Our New Virtual World – ourWorld

| March 4, 2010 | Comments (2)
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Ysfollowicon Yoursphere’s goal, as you’ve read or heard me say many times, is to put your child’s online safety first and to provide an age and content appropriate online experience.  With all the wonderful benefits the Internet has to offer, our goal is to leverage them all, to your child’s benefit. 

As a result, Yoursphere offers children the best of the Internet: educational content, ability to support their digital literacy and participation through sharing of photos and videos, and the creation of their own web sites or “spheres” based on their unique interests, blogging, creative writing programs, social interaction, exploring new interests, offering scholarships, engaging kids in supporting philanthropies, educating them about online safety, and both teaching and practicing good online citizenship. 

A missing component—that I knew our members would love—was a virtual world where they could engage in real-time with their friends on Yoursphere.  That’s why I am very excited to introduce you to Yoursphere’s newly implemented feature exclusively for our members: a virtual world aptly named ourWorld.

Because our children’s safety comes first at Yoursphere, we’ve made ourWorld a closed-off virtual community where only Yoursphere verified members can interact with each other.  The best thing about ourWorld is that it’s built on the same foundation of Yoursphere’s—meaning ourWorld offers Yoursphere kids a ton of things to do while at the same time staying age-appropriate and fun. 

Among all the great things to do in ourWorld: there are dozens of games to play, contests to enter, condos to decorate, friends to make, jobs to apply for, movies to watch, clothes to buy and so much more.  It’s an engaging experience that supports the creativeness of our children.  And like Yoursphere, there is no advertising.

One of the stand-out features that I know the kids will love is the ability to instantly connect with each other.  This is something that the kids have been wanting for a while now, so before this chat functionality was fully activated, the Yoursphere Safety Team tested it out.  What we love is that ourWorld is embedded with a dictionary of words that kids can and can’t say—these words were categorized into two lists: the white list, and the black list.  If someone decides that they want to type a word from the black list, well, it’s going to be replaced with something much more appropriate.  To further enforce age-appropriate activities and positive interactions, there is always someone from the Yoursphere Goodwill Ambassador Team reinforcing good virtual-world conduct.

Here are some screenshots showing you what it looks like inside ourWorld and just a few of the things Yoursphere members can do once inside:

This is Soho, just one of the areas that can be unlocked in ourWorld.  This area has a salon for haircuts, and a place to watch a fashion show.

Girl soho

These are all the other areas that can be unlocked in ourWorld. The Boardwalk with an arcade, a pier with a rollercoaster, and SOHO where the salon and fashion show are located.

Travel guide

Within Yoursphere’s ourWorld, there are two different types of currency: Flow and Gems.  Every Yoursphere member will start out with some complementary Flow and Gems allowing them to jump right in and build their avatar. 

Kids can earn more Flow in several ways: playing games, entering contests, making friends, giving gifts, or decorating their condo.  By earning more Flow, kids unlock new gestures, new items and eventually unlock new areas in ourWorld that have more games and things to do. 

Gems, the more valuable currency, are not necessary to participate, but if desired have to be purchased by the parent or have to be given to the child by one of their friends in ourWorld.  A trip to the grocery store, online or at a 7-11 store is where you can find Gems. Gems serve multiple purposes.  For example, kids can use Gems to buy new clothes for their avatar and furniture for their condo.

Here’s a glimpse of what a condo could look like:

Condo

And here’s a completely different one—this one’s jungle themed!  The kids have had a great time decorating, designing and trying out new creative ideas they have. It’s fun to sit over my children’s shoulder and watch as they laugh out loud, and race each other to see who gets voted for the most interesting condo. My 11-year-old was super excited about a snail table he made. Yes, snails : )

Other condo looks

These are some of the shops kids can visit to purchase stuff for their avatar or condo.

Condo shop Clothes shop

Avatars are fully customizable, everything from skin color to hair style.   My younger son has tried on a multitude of outfits and skin colors. He loves his pink Mohawk at the moment. Yesterday it was orange.

My daughter is complaining that she needs new hair, but hasn’t figured out how to get to the SOHO salon just yet. It’s funny seeing her get help from her younger brothers.  What I’ve loved is they’ve given up their hour of TV time to play in ourWorld.

Girl about Look customize Avatar bio

There are tons of games to play, stores to shop at and places to visit.

Ourworld games list

As members play and participate, they earn Flow.  As they earn Flow, they level up, this allows them to access more content within ourWorld. Earning Flow does not require hours in the community in case you were wondering. It requires participation, not “time online”. Participation can be as simple as playing a game.  Here’s how the Flow and leveling up system works.

Leveling up

This is one way to use Flow in order to win cool gear for their avatar, or coins to buy stuff with.

Using flow

Among other cool and fun activities, Yoursphere members can get a job in ourWorld, watch movies with friends in the theatre, or go skating at the skating rink.  The music and movies are age appropriate.

Ourworld get a job Theatre

As a member plays more games, enters (and hopefully wins) more contests, they gain new abilities like gift giving and honorary ourWorld badges to show off.

Earning badges

Parents, this virtual world is a free feature that comes with a Yoursphere membership. I encourage you to sit with your kids and see what ourWorld is all about.  We want you to be comfortable with the experience we are providing your children.  I am.  Like any new feature, there’s a bit of a learning curve. I helped when I could, but my 9 and 11-year-old figured it out….better than their 16-year-old sister.  Like with me, the fun and creativity I saw my kids engaged in put a smile on my face. I hope it does for you, too.

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Category: Yoursphere

Comments (2)

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  1. Mary Kay says:

    Thank you for sharing your concerns.
    I agree with you that nothing is 100% full-proof. A website publisher could put all the filters, technology and human oversight in place yet kids will still find some way around disclosing personally identifiable information such as phone numbers or texting information.
    As well, kids left unmonitored by parents or not talked to about what’s appropriate to say or not say online may at some point participate in conversation that involves sexual content. We’ve had that happen. A 12 year old member solicited another younger member. While their intentions were likely more for shock value, or to test what they could get away with, it was still an inappropriate exchange. Our safety controls caught the interaction. The child’s membership was canceled and their parents were sent a message related to their child’s cancellation. It’s important that a web site publisher hold its members accountable for their interactions so that members will learn.
    “ourWorld.com” is its own site that lives in many places online outside of Yoursphere.com. The version of ourWorld inside Yoursphere.com is completely separate from the other domains and is exclusive to our community only and the same level of oversight applies.
    The way for children to have a safer online experience involves:
    - parental involvement in their child’s online activities.
    - education of children about being Internet-safety-smart including what’s okay to say online, what’s not, and what to do if someone says something to you inappropriate online.
    - consistent family dialogue between parents and children about the importance of proper behavior and interaction online.
    - parents setting all Internet safety controls for any device that connects to the Internet.
    - parents installing software to help monitor activity proactively.
    - parents researching the ethics/values of the web site publisher their child participates on so that a parent can confirm they are a “match” for their child.

  2. Concerned Parent says:

    Not safe at all…kids can trade personal info including phone numbers and texting info. There is lots of sex chats going on and groups like the tyc strippers. It is also know as a trolling ground for perverts. Definitely not kid friendly.

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