Shocking Teen Trends: Virtual World
"I've been playing this game since I was 11," says Lexie, 13. "Basically, all you have to worry about is getting addicted to it."
She shows off her avatar, Brianna. "An avatar is your basic little person that you get to control. You get to customize them however you
Lexie explains why her virtual world seems real. "There are a lot of people who rely on me, and I can't just get out and leave. I have responsibilities. I'm a club leader. I run businesses. My house, I rent it out for, like, parties and stuff," she says.
"My mom's car is really craptacular. It's, basically, falling apart," Lexie laughs. "My car, it's a shiny, really beautiful, red sports car. It's my car. I bought it. I am more popular in the virtual world. I think I have, like, 137 friends. I can't even keep track of them all."
"She's never had a lot of close friendships," Lezlie reveals. "She's had one really close friend."
Lexie admits that she gets into a lot of fights at school. "It kind of pushes me into a deeper hole, emotionally," she says. "The virtual world is, like, my refuge."
Lexie says she hangs out in her virtual world from the time she wakes up until 6:00 at night. "I've caught her up in the middle of the night when I thought she had already gone to bed. She's, like, one of those crank addicts. She'll do anything to get her fix," Lezlie says. "I'm trying to limit her time, and she's miserable. But what scares me is she's obsessed with this boy now."
"I walked in and found her laying on her virtual bed kissing this boy," Lezlie says, referring to Lexie's avatar, Brianna.
"My mom went psycho-ballistic," she says with a grin. "I've kissed him more than once. I don't even know how many times. It's basically the same as real life."
"I don't really know who she's talking to. That scares me to death because everyone knows about the creeps that are out there," Lezlie says. "This virtual world is so intoxicating and exciting that it's consuming her to the point where I will lose her."
"Definitely," she says with a laugh. "I can't say no."
"Mom, you say she's given up a lot of other interests because this has consumed her," Dr. Phil points out. "You say she's given up art, reading, writing, creative artwork, swimming, taking the dog for walks, even horseback riding."
"Basically, I'm pretty much on the game, like, 24/7," Lexie admits.
Dr. Phil explains that Lexie can purchase items for her avatar. "How much does a car cost?" he asks her. "Something that's not â€˜craptacular,' as you say."
"Minimum would be, like, $10,000," she replies.
"Ten thousand dollars would be how many real dollars?" Dr. Phil inquires.
"I'm not sure, but I know that $9,000 is five real-life dollars," Lexie answers.
"But it makes, like, getting around more easy, and you don't want to live in a house with nothing in it," Lexie reasons.
"You just said, â€˜live' in a house," Dr. Phil notes. "You're not really in the house! You're sitting in a chair in your house."
"Basically, you get sucked into the game," Lexie explains.
"I did, but you can't, like, take a picture and crop it on there," she says.
"That doesn't look like you," Dr. Phil observes. "I think you are much cuter than she is. Look, I said â€˜she is!' There's no real she!"
To illustrate how the virtual world works, There.com made an avatar of Dr. Phil interacting in a role-playing game. Dr. Phil's avatar is shown cruising on the beach in a jeep, at an amusement park, playing cards, dancing with friends at a party, and surfing. "Didn't get a lot out of that," Dr. Phil says wryly.
"If somebody is overspending, we will call up the number and say, â€˜Hi, do you know you're spending this much money?'" Michael explains.
"You'll shut kids down if they're getting over the line," Dr. Phil summarizes.
"The problem is not with the game; the problem is the use of it," Dr. Phil tells Lexie and Lezlie. "The game is very creative and it's there for you to use or abuse. Are you abusing it?"
"Definitely," Lexie says.
Dr. Phil points out that Lexie feels a connection to her virtual boyfriend, Neville. "We contacted Neville. His real name is Aaron, and this is what he had to say: â€˜Lexie is my avatar, Neville's, girlfriend. She asked me to be her boyfriend, and I said yes. My avatar has had 10 girlfriends, and I have had two real-life girlfriends,'" Dr. Phil reads.
"That's why I called him on the phone," Lexie says.
"Did you know she called him on the phone?" Dr. Phil asks Lezlie.
"Actually, I talked to him on the phone too because I wanted to make sure he really was 13, and I actually talked to his mom," Lezlie answers.
"But if she's over-involved in this, don't you need to shut it down?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Yes," she says. "We've tried limiting it to four hours a day. It's not working."
Dr. Phil is baffled. "Four hours a day? It's ridiculous!" he says. "Mom, you've got to step up and shut this down. Once she's at a point where she can play the game instead of being absorbed in the game, then perhaps, she can attempt to go back to it."