Dear Parents / Carers,

We have recently been made aware of a new app called ‘Avakin Life’. ‘Avakin Life’ is an online virtual world that allows teens and adults alike to chat and make new friends. It is a virtual 3D gaming world where users create their own character, or Avatar, before choosing their outfits and interacting with users at different in-game locations. The premise of the game is to encourage social interaction. Although this game is aimed at teenagers, there are not stringent rules about the age of the child playing and they are easily able to bypass the age verification age process.

The game can be downloaded on iOS, Android and Amazon Devices,

  • Apple Age Rating – 12+
  • Google Play Age Rating – Parental Guidance
  • Amazon Age Rating – Guidance Suggested

We have been alerted to the risk of potential grooming and abuse on the ‘Avakin Life’. Online safeguarding experts have reviewed and tested the game, and discovered a number of potential risks to young people. The major risk is that users can easily access children and young people online via private and public chats. 2 million people currently use the platform, with half a million using it every day. Once a user has kitted out their character, they can embark on ‘endless adventures’ in what the company says is ‘a world with no limits’.

 

Key Risks

  • Testing found that users under 13 would see a message saying they were not eligible to play, but they could still enter the game, if they lied about their age to bypass the age verification process
  • The platform uses public chat rooms, live events and one to one conversations to facilitate interaction
  • The game was initially designed for users aged 17+ but now allows children aged 13+
  • Despite a fun design, it isn’t suitable for children due to the suggestive nature of chats, actions and ‘meet-ups’
  • There is evidence that the platform has been used to groom young children internationally

 

So what should you, as a parent, be aware of?

  • Anyone can start a conversation with a user
  • Direct messages are called ‘whispering’ when two users are in the same venue
  • Users can communicate privately at any time, if they are friends
  • The clothes options for Avatars can create sexualised characters
  • There are references to drugs and alcohol
  • New users are awarded coins for in-app purchases
  • Users can buy each other online ‘gifts’ such as outfits and even apartments which may facilitate online grooming
  • Linking other social media accounts such as Facebook and an email address also earns more coins

 

Please continue to engage in conversation with your child about keeping safe online and who they would talk to if someone made them feel uncomfortable. Also check that they understand what they should do if they see something online that worries or upsets them.

 

Thank you for your continued support with keeping our children safe online.

 

Information taken from https://oursaferschools.co.uk/

 

Miss Tong (IT Coordinator)

Miss Reynolds (RSE Leader)

 

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