I have squirmed and delayed writing this post, because I have little to offer, except what I have observed.
Most adults are dealing with online as "Not Real". Since most parents don't understand or GET Facebook, Twitter, or even instant messaging apps, it is far easier to dismiss it as invalid than having to actually figure out what is happening.
I tried to approach this dilemma in my local library by putting an announcement for a presentation. "Virtual is NOT Going Away" . I wished to express that our kids are getting their validation no longer from parents, teachers, clergy and traditional channels. We are being usurped in the same way as the Egypt's government...information from sources that we have no control over.
I wanted the adults who claim to have the interests of their children at their heart, to know that putting a cell phone in their kid's hands, and giving computers and unlimited internet access, also requires teaching them the psychology to deal with it. We wouldn't throw them in the pool without trying to teach them to swim? But no one seems to be doing that? ...mostly because no one knows.
I did a Google search for "kid's virtual worlds" and the first thing that came up was IMVU. I am in IMVU and it is there that I am approached by avatars claiming to be 19 with questions about adult topics only later to find out they were 12. I give the facts and the psychology that I have learned and teach in the Virgin's Handbook on Virtual Relationships about the different methods of online perceptional engagements. (Disassociative, Immersive, Augmentative).
We are way behind what seems to be an inherent understanding of technological communication from our children who play complex MMOs like we did checkers. Our ONLY hope is to give them the tools to at least express their difficulties.
I was particularly reminded about the need to teach our children these things by an article in The Economist (June 9-15th 2012) called "Let the nippers network". It was talking about officially allowing under 13 year olds to Facebook with restrictions.
This older generation is not going to out smart the kids when it comes to technology! They WILL find ways around restrictions, but with the whole world instantly opened to them without the tools to deal with their emotions and engagement, it can lead to disaster! Cyber bullying and suicide from the disconnect these sometimes damaging and confusing online engagements can give is only going to get worse if we do nothing.
BTW- No one showed for the presentation... surprise, surprise.