Shocking Teen Trends: Virtual World

Shocking Teen Trends: Virtual World

"My daughter, Lexie, has become obsessed with this online virtual identity game called There," reports Lezlie. "Her real life is boring!"

"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
want. My avatar dresses actually a lot more different than me. It's kind of provocative," she says with a sheepish grin. "These are definitely the kind of clothes I want to wear."

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.

"Our home is nice and simple, very humble," Lezlie says. "Lexie's online home is three stories and, like, 20 rooms. She's always having a party every night."

"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."

"She's, like, this junkie just sitting in front of the computer, not taking care of her chores," Lezlie complains.

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."

Lexie shows off her virtual boyfriend, Neville, who's real-life persona is 13. "We take it really seriously. He told me that he likes me in real life," she gushes. "He said I was hot and stuff. I kind of confessed that I like him too. I want to meet him in person."

"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."

Dr. Phil addresses Lexie. "Do you think you're addicted to it?" he asks.

"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.

"When she's in her real life, she's exhausted because this game is so interactive and so visually stimulating," Lezlie chimes in. "When she's off the game, she doesn't have a lot of energy for other things."

Dr. Phil explains that Lexie can purchase items for her avatar. "How much does a car cost?" he asks her. "Something that's not ‘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.

"You pay this money with a credit card, and then you get credit, and then you can use that to buy things to furnish your house," Dr. Phil observes. "So you might spend $20 or $30 or $40 to buy a Lamborghini or something. The stuff that you're buying, you don't really have anything. You just have a picture or something on your computer."

"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, ‘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.


Dr. Phil shows a picture of Lexie's avatar. "Why didn't you make it look like you?"

"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 ‘she is!' There's no real she!"

To illustrate how the virtual world works, 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.

Dr. Phil introduces Michael Wilson, CEO of "Your intention is not to consume kids from their real life. In fact, you have a tremendous number of safeguards," he points out.

"If somebody is overspending, we will call up the number and say, ‘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.

"Yes, sir. If their parents call, we'll shut it right off. We don't want it be your life," Michael replies.

"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: ‘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.

Dr. Phil also reads the response from Beth, Aaron's mother. "‘Neville, aka Aaron, has not told me about Lexie. There is another girl on There. She's his online girlfriend, not this other avatar.' Is he virtually two-timing you?" Dr. Phil asks Lexie. "One of the dangers with the Internet is you don't know who you're talking to. You don't know what they look like."

"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."