In the light of recent events surrounding the bannings of Smokey Hill, I thought it was something I had to place on my personal blog to place a little bit of yin to the yang and to the talk surrounding the issues. I am not here to start pointing fingers, nobody is doing that, but in this story there is a moral to the tale. I believe there should be two sides to a story and that both sides are versed to make a proper conclusion.
We should start with some home truths and it is the fact how there was ever a mediation to this scenario to the first place. The reason it started was the fact two people had very differing views on a subject. Will they see eye to eye, will they ever try to see each others points of view? – I dunno. Time will tell, but it was because I was upset as when I offered to give more information to another, he then turned it into no more than “a trial on my own views” and not so much of the issues at hand. I spoke to Andy about it, he saw it as unfair and thus amends were made and kindly went off to contact the people involved to sort the issues out.
In my mind my only reasons to push this was because (a), I was annoyed I had to leave a place because of no fault of my own and that someone had spoiled the experience for me. (b) – I am totally sick to the back teeth of the same issues in why kids are banned from places time and time again. (c) because Smokey Hills looks to be a fantastic place for kids to have adventures in its own RP lore. Dear god, SL kids need places to go and they need places with diversity and a chance to make a place their own or at least be free to explore. Let me further explain...
As a kid who has been involved with a few RP sims, it's interesting to hear what S.L adults say about kids offhand. When you have R.P places that allow kids, it's great fun and you appreciate when developers open the gates to S.L kids when others are slamming doors in faces. Some of us like to push the boundaries a little more and work hard to open up places for kids to join (where perhaps they were not welcomed or thought of as compatible). When they do it's a fantastic achievement and I find any S.L kid who ventures to do that are the bravest souls, simply because they are independent and open to try new experiences for themselves without having someone or some group holding their hand.
Changing opinions especially to people who have a distrust for S.L kids is not easy, but through my experience it can be done. Many of my best buddies on S.L were once self confessed child haters, so yeah go guess Like most things, opinions and views can be changed, but they are changed through empathy, understanding and accepting of a diverse views and more important - fitting into a scenario or place. The way opinions are broken is by giving people a chance with an open book, give them the opposite of what they expect and that is to show that S.L kids can be very thoughtful, funny, imaginative,very sociable and more than eager to interact with other communities far removed from their own.
In light of the dramas, I am really pleased to hear it's a very mixed story, quite a few S.L children have come back from the Smokey Hills Sims less than 12 hours ago, saying they met Andy and had some nice conversations with him. Now I want to make it perfectly clear, I am not here to start some immature “he said, you said" battle of words, people are entitled to opinions and even if we do not agree. Every opinion is a valid opinion no matter if we like them or not and they all have a place in the wall of facts. The only thing I have to say about that is if some kids visited there, talked to Andy quite openly and for a good amount of time and then in contrast some kids from one group had a more negative experience... then I would be inclined to ask why?
I have been watching what has been said on feeds, to be honest I really feel uncomfortable with it in some way as the way I read it, to me its subconsciously trying to discredit anyone who actively did not support a certain sides views. To me that is totally awful and to be honest really biased and clique ridden. I heard reports from others that Andy had a number of kid avatars I.Ming him negatively for his decisions, that is also so not cool. If anything that is pack attacking without so much as a stop to sit and get all the information at hand.
Worst of all is the denial to even remotely talk or discuss the issues that lead to those differing opinions. Like it or not , these opinions exist and I guess it should be spelled out.
Many S.L kids I know are really industrious, hard working, creative individuals and that’s the great thing about being an S.L kid. We also place so much colour into the S.L environment, some of us spend tons of money into the S.L economy also. So yeah I do get a bit annoyed when those of us are taking time to improve our lives here, are hard working and constantly developing our S.L lives to have more richer experience are suddenly stopped, whacked with a wooden spoon and told to go home for simply turning up at places because we are S.L children, but it smarts far more to find out that other kids caused the issues which to be brutally honest could have been easily avoided. OK brace yourselves, cause some home truths coming !!
I am not afraid to say there are a percentage of kids who don’t act like kids, they are instead “mini adults”. I don't mean they don't baby talk etc, most kids I know are not child like per se, they are often a mix of half imagination yet still keeping their R.L personalities. I am not talking about cursing either, as a character I do curse occasionally (what kid does not). What I am talking about is some kids who really don't know how to act in public and with strange people they don't know, sometimes often talking in sexual double meanings, sometimes really overly suggestive conversations that is only comfortable with like-minded people. And yes, often that suggestive talks often combines with wearing as less clothes as possible and always almost boys.
I am sure some kids will know and agree with exactly what I am talking about and agree it always always directs from the same sorts of people who do collate in pockets. I am not saying that anything like that happened in Smokey Hills or the group concerned, I am sure that never went on ( or hope it never) but I am fully aware of how some boys can act in public at times. This is nothing new, most kids know it and those who deny it are either part of it or possibly living in massive denial but nobody can say it does not exist. And this is why a good many adults are put off by S.L children, simply because when they see such things happening in openly, then its pretty much the self fulfilling prophecy when people view S.L children , especially those who have had no real contact or meetings with them before. Of course I myself have encountered far worse, which is why I am at liberty to say things as I find it.
A good example of this happened in the RP sims of Innsmouth a while back, where it was well documented that "a bunch of boys wearing skimpy shorts and attire not suited to children” started appearing in the sims and hanging there and acting in an “un-childlike manner”. I know this because I have a few adult buddies who run R.P there, they had casually commented about it when discussing a project completely unrelated to Innsmouth; but on the topic of including children in R.P and concerns people have when allowing them. Even when you have child centred or child inclusive R.P, there are standards to uphold & there is still a code of conduct. Break it and you, your friends and any other kid after you will be told to leave. It's happened before on other sims, so it's important to remember everyone is responsible for others in regards to how you act as first impressions and beyond. We want more places not less !!
I noticed a lot of talk on semi nudity came into the discussion too, so I will also say something on the matter. Now to me there is nothing wrong with getting into swimwear and on the beach to swim and play like all kids do, nothing sexualized about it. But again we are kids and if you know your history and your environment, you know exactly what past issues surrounding kid avatars have been. So you learn pretty quickly how to dress and act appropriately in the right places and don't put yourself up to be questioned.
To be fair Linden Labs don't exactly help that hysteria either, for example at one time they had some “ anti nipple propaganda “ for skin creators that as soon as they displayed a nipple it's considered erotic ??. In fact a few child skin creators were approached by Linden Labs at one time to remove upper body shots stating said content was not TOS compliant. Ok so I am being slightly flippant but honestly... what message is that giving to others who are already fearful of kids as it is? Linden Labs say pictures of nipples are bad, oh wait half naked kids on my sim . Can you see where I am going on this?
It's not to say going about shirtless on a beach or wearing swimwear is bad – it's clearly not, but the mixed messages and grey areas certainly don’t help. I find that laughable to be honest, kids play in swimwear on the beach in Real Life so why is it suddenly an issue in Second Life. To be honest I don't think it is an issue people just have RL hangups and they vent it wildly. I have swimwear and I play on the beach but I think its more to do with where and when more than anything on this occasion. For example... when I go to new places, I dress accordingly and if it's a designated beach and everyone is doing it, then I feel free enough to go out and surf etc.
The same goes for sim rules, I always check to see if I am allowed and if I am... what rules I have to adhere to – be it be in period dress/ clothing appropriate for the sim etc. It's all about the right actions for the right scenario. You would not go stripping off in your undies in the middle of your grandmothers birthday party just as she is cutting her cake - “SURPRISE GRANDMA.”. errr NO!!,... so why would you do it in a public sim where others are not bathing or has no facilities to do that? It's all about doing the right things at the right times and being socially aware, simple.
I will make a valid point that to me is also interesting and that is for all the kids I heard visiting Smokey Hills, no other kid I know or heard of started throwing clothes in wild abandon and swim on a whim. There were towers to climb, huts to explore, adventures to be had. I am sure also those kids who did meet with Andy and had some good rapport with him would have asked if they could swim too but I think most were too impressed with the sim to explore. Ok so Andy freaked out, that's all – perhaps he could have handled it better but in fairness, the group also had a responsibility and could have also perhaps placed their decorum a bit better. Explore, look around have fun but keep the clothes on. Want to go for a swim?, then ask permission from the owners of the sim you are on and see how they feel about it. When I was there the last thing on my mind was to take my clothes off and swim... so I dunno horses for courses I guess“ shrugs” All I know is I am 97% sure if it was me and my friends at that sim, we would not have had the same issues, simply because I guess we have a different train of thought to how we explore and hang out.
What is important is people have to remember that every S.L kid is an ambassador for other children when you visit sims. You do your homework if it's a group visit, you play neutral until you are aware of your surroundings, you ask permissions and you check out rules if they have any and above all... you act accordingly. Any sim I go to these days I always check for rules first or ask the sim owner, it's just common politeness and respect to do so. So when I do say I feel Andy was caught unawares, I really think he was and panic set in. He started seeing a group of kids flinging clothes off and possibly recalled stories he has heard along the grapevine and made an assumption. So before we flippantly say its them having a hang-up, think again.
We have to realize why some people are scared of S.L children and not simply throw our hands in the air and say “ its them, they have the issues , its not us”. When you have a lot of bad press as S.L kids have had, it gets around and it's hard to shake that off. In turn such stories turn into moral panics and pretty soon the peoples fears of losing your sim, your investments and your hard work is suddenly bundled into a stark reality on the back of one very dumb and dubious kid. So it's up to us as S.L children to do far more to alleviate such bad impressions and replace them with more positive ones. You won't help that by boycotting places and labelling people as no better than anti SL kid trolls. People will just label us as trouble makers and ban us outright and that's not what we need right now.
So in honesty I can see why he reacted the way he did and nobody has the right to really argue with that, other than perhaps as childen we should be doing far more to be understanding in what adults think of us. We should also be collectively amending what we can through information and advice who don't know or are misinformed.
All I know is from the children I talked to and Imed me after the last feed entries, it had been been mostly positive from what was said about Andy. So I am quite glad he has some people out there sticking up for him. Some other kids might be smarting to think other children are taking his side, don't be. It's logical, you will always get divide in such events. I am just quite surprised just how many differing opinions there are on this, perhaps the S.L kids community is not so clear cut and one sided as one thinks and I think that's awesome. The reason for that is you can perhaps fool adults but you cannot fool S.L kids who have a wider knowledge of the community that surrounds them and the experiences they have gathered over the years to make their own educated guesses, so it's really not people like Andy some people have to reassure, perhaps the beginning of that has to be far closer to home - it's the kids who are actively disagreeing and more importantly why.
All I hope is people don't get so sure of themselves and learn from this scenario, so that such things like this don't happen again so soon and in frequent repeats. There is as I said a lot of division on this, so yeah it's interesting to say the least. As for Smokey Hills... well time will tell if it ever will allow kids in its streets. I for one hope it does & will allow children as part of its roleplay structure. From what I hear it has some really nice plans forthcoming for the town. As for the situation itself, well change won't happen unless people realize the parts everyone had to play in that scenario and perhaps they openly apologize for the parts they played. Let's hope they do and lets move on.