Children Joining Metaverse with IMVU
Let’s dive right into IMVU.
IMVU is a virtual ‘Sims like’ online world and social networking site available online via website and on apps. It was originally released in 2004 but made a resurgence during Covid.
The game allows users to create their own avatars to explore different ‘metaverses’ and interact with other players all over the world.
The IMVU slogan is: ‘Chat with people all over the world, meet people near and far.’
It promises players that they will ‘never run out of new people to meet’ and have the chance to ‘discover dressing up, chatting and having fun’ and ‘celebrate’ as ‘anything could happen!’ IMVU has an age restriction of 13+ but the advised age for the app is 17+. It has over 2 million users in the UK and around 50 million worldwide.
This app is centred around creating a virtual life where you can go to parties and clubs and dress differently than you normally would.
There is a ‘chat now’ feature which allows two people to be put randomly together in a chat. They can post pictures of their avatars and send chats to each other. This is risky as kids don’t know who they are talking to. There’s no chat filter so while in discussion with people on the platform, there’s nothing to prevent your child from being exposed to swear words or sexually explicit conversation or keep them from giving out personal information.
Anyone can talk to a child and obtain their personal details and then possibly send them pictures outside of the platform.
There are also ‘Live rooms’ where users can engage and entertain an audience of thousands. The audience chat, interact, and tip the host of the room. To make money, the game charges users who want to host an event a subscription fee to create those experiences, design the space, and market it through chat rooms.
Some of the chatrooms also offer special dating and matching services.
Shopping is a huge part of the IMVU platform, and IMVU credits can be purchased. There are lots of in-app purchase options where players use credits to buy extra features for their avatars.
There have been reports of bullying of players who do not spend enough money on clothes and furniture. Credits can also be used to upgrade relationships with other members.
Users can create their own badges which they can give to friends in IMVU. These are created by uploading jpg images, which means any photo can be uploaded including offensive imagery.
Tips for parents and carers
From the information above, I’ll assume you’ve made up your own mind on the risks involved with children and particularly younger teenagers on IMVU so I’ll forge right ahead with some tips for safety for users.
- To report inappropriate behaviour in a chat, click on the persons avatar and click the Flag button.
- To report an offensive badge, click on the badge and click Flag for review. This will send the conversation or image to IMVU customer services for review. IMVU claims to check all reported messages within 24 hours, so if a conversation violates the Terms of Service a message is sent to its home page and appropriate action should be taken.
- Although the app does have an option to submit a report with evidence of any online abuse that occurs, many players have complained that nothing is done to address issues that have been raised.
- Here’s the IMVU their safety page which shows you all the different safety settings available and how to enable them: https://about.imvu.com/trust.
- Privacy settings should be set up that allow you to modify who your friends are and your visibility. You need to opt into the safety/privacy settings to be able to set them up.
- If your child talks to strangers on IMVU’s ‘chat now’ feature, make sure they understand the difference between people they meet online and real-life friends.
- Tell them to never arrange meetings with these people in real life or to give away any personal information. Tell them to tell you or another trusted adult if they see anything distressing.
- Ensure that no payment methods are stored within the app or on your device and you and your child shouldn’t have any risk of accidentally buying something off the app.
- Look out for scams ‘Phishing’ is particularly common on IMVU as scammers can easily claim to be someone they’re not to trick you or your child into sharing personal information like a password and username. Do your best to keep up to date on scams and how to avoid them. If anyone ever asks your child for personal information, teach your child to come to you or stop talking to that person.
- It should be noted that there is an ‘Adults Only’ section in IMVU which you can enter by purchasing an Access Pass.
According to IMVU, its core demographic is players aged 18 to 24 with 7% aged 35 and over. Do you think your child is mature enough to use IMVU safely?
Take care online!