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Monday, March 9, 2009

Do Kids Have Different Virtual Morals?

Do our morals from the real world carry over into the virtual world? Apparently so, according to researchers at Michigan State University. Psychologist Linda Jackson and her colleagues interviewed a group of 12-years-olds and found that moral attitudes in the real world predicted morality in the virtual world: The more important moral character was in real life, the less acceptable they found morally questionable behaviors in virtual environments.
The researchers then decided to take the investigation a step further to see how gender and race affect kids' beliefs about moral behavior. It turns out there are some interesting differences. Black boys and girls and white girls focus on individual well-being when they make decisions about morality in the real world. White boys, on the other hand, tend to judge behaviors according to moral rules.
The researchers also decided to see how kids judge virtual behavior that have "harmful" real-world effects (like emailing friends answers to a test and pornography). They found that black children were more likely than white kids to find this kind of behavior acceptable, and they were also more likely to approve of morally questionable virtual behavior that advanced their goals in the real world.
The logical question is whether the amount of time kids spend using information technology makes a difference. According to the researchers, it does. The more children use the Internet, they say, the more comfortable they are with invasion of privacy, violence in video games, and online pornography. —Heather Wax