AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Waddling around the Digital Iceberg: Use of Virtual Spaces and Environments by children, preteens, and teens.

Dania Bilal, Eric Myers, Shari Lee, Andrew Large, Jamshid Beheshti and Nicole Vallieres

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Emerging technologies, including Web 2.0, are offering new opportunities and possibilities for youth to create, organize, represent content, read and learn, exchange and share information, and fulfill a need to communicate with others. MySpace, YouTube, Google Video, blogs, podcasts,, and Flickr offer seamless functionalities and capabilities that young users find fascinating. Virtual environments available for children, preteens, and teens are growing in popularity. Children of various ages are contributing to the Web not only by creating content but also by tagging information to represent content. A recent survey shows that content creation by teenagers has increased from 57% in 2004 to 64% in 2007 (Pew Internet, 2007). Recently, virtual environments targeting preteens (e.g., elementary age school children) are providing theme-based worlds for them with games, social activities, and images to customize. Sites such as WebKinz (, Nicktropolis (, Imbee (, Millsberry (, Whyville (, Club Penguin (, and Neopets offer useful, experiential, exploratory, and entertaining learning environments for these users. Sites targeting teens such as Zwinktopia (, Teen Second Life (http:.//, and Habbo Hotel ( provide 2D and 3D virtual worlds with avatars and games to engage in various online activities. These virtual environments are intoxicating and engaging for children, but causing consternation for parents who fear the potential dangers and perceived developmental effects of these immersive virtual worlds.

A panel of researchers and educators will explore various aspects of virtual environments including how children seek, use, and share information, how libraries are reaching out to youth by providing virtual spaces, and how children are tagging information using virtual games. They will report the findings of their recent research and engage the audience in a lively discussion.

Understanding how youth interact with virtual environment will contribute to our growing knowledge of how social information practices develop in young people. This knowledge is of critical concern to parents, educators, care-givers, information professionals, and others who mediate the real and virtual worlds of preteens. Beheshti, Bowler, Large, & Nesset (2005) note that CVEs offer a rich context for the development of socially mediated information practices. What are the implications of these CVEs for this and future generations of youth?

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