Firstly, let's address what I mean by online roleplay and roleplay in general as it tends to get a bit of bad press. The basic premise of roleplay is that you create yourself a character with a background, personality and skillset appropriate to the imaginary environment that you are roleplaying in. As your character, you interact with others, to create and develop storylines. In many cases you are subject to the rules of a roleplay system which add an element of chance into whether your actions succeed or fail (and let's face it, too many infallible superheroes gets a little tiresome). Online roleplay, in my case, is through virtual 3D worlds. There is something for everyone out there but the majority of time, I play in gritty, urban environments set in the present day. The premise is the same as in-person roleplay but the system is more relaxed. Within certain boundaries, your character can follow any storyline. Any major outcomes would have to pre-agreed with those involved but the 'how' is up to you. Taking turns, you write in real time the actions of your character and respond to the actions of others.
Here's me with all my online friends
For me, online roleplay fulfills some of the same things as blogging. I love love love the creative writing side of things - over time constructing events which change and shape my character. Sometimes the events are dark and traumatic like a good crime/thriller novel but just as often I have a completely spontaneous funny roleplay with a few friends.
The thing is, as you can imagine, there really are online roleplay environments to cater for every...eh-hem...preference...and while it's a great thing for adults to be able to express themselves in whatever way they like, there's always the ongoing debate about suitability for children. To be honest, while I keep my roleplay relatively tame, I wouldn't even want Little Monster to be exposed to some of the storylines I have been involved in - in the same way that I wouldn't want him to watch films rated 15 when he's just a baby. The fact is that our children are going to be computer literate from a much earlier age than we were and, with that, there is going to be the desire to copy whatever you do. Even if I never roleplayed around Little Monster, you just know he's going to find that icon, double-click and away he goes!
So what's the right thing to do? How do we protect our children from unsuitable online content but still allow them to have access to the amazing expanse of information that the web has to offer? Because, as with virtual worlds, it is not just about webpages that we can choose to block. I don't have all the answers, or any actually, but I'd love to know your thoughts. As your little ones are getting more technology literate, how are you controlling or monitoring their access to online resources? Or even apps on your phone?