There are over 1 billion users of virtual worlds, online communities where users have avatars and participate in various simulated environments. Even more impressive than that number: roughly half of those virtual world users are under age 15.
(...) Virtual worlds are often dismissed as merely games and most do not claim to be educational websites. But there are plenty of informal learning opportunities for kids in these environments, particularly as these are often their first experiences with online communities. Participating in a virtual world can help kids learn how to communicate and behave online.
They can also be utilized to help bridge online and offline ethics. One virtual world, MiniMonos, for example, has an environmental theme and tries to make sustainability lessons clear to its users. If you don’t keep up with the recycling around your avatar’s treehouse, there are in-world consequences. The virtual world also ties this to the real world as well, rewarding users for various environmental actions they take in their own communities.
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