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If a player wants to get to know his chat partner better, he can visit their IMVU homepage which is unmonitored for age-inappropriate content.

As IMVU players chat, they can also make their avatars interact.

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But "there's a lot of potential in both directions," he said.Bickham suggests that many children can benefit from the chance to reach out to their peers."If you have lonely kids or kids who can't get out of the house very often," he said, "this can provide a really positive place for kids to have the opportunity to socialize."The threat of online sexual predators and cyberbullies on children's sites is greatly exaggerated, Bickham said.In the report, Pew research center revealed that 50 percent of the teens who took part in the focus groups sent friendship requests to their potential partners as a way of showing their interest.On the other hand, 47 percent teens showed their liking by leaving comments or exchanging messages on social media.These days, the Internet is making it easier -- perhaps too easy, some say.

Spurred by the popularity of social networking sites such as My Space and Facebook, a host of companies are developing social sites for children, with names like Club Penguin, Be-Bratz, Habbo Hotel, and Whyville.The website is called IMVU, a realistic Sims-like game and social networking virtual world purported to be for kids ages 13 and up.IMVU players select an avatar and buy clothing and items to personalize its world.The first type does not consider the Internet a safer medium for finding a romantic partner due to the chances of misrepresentation.On the other hand, some teens consider it okay to start a romantic relationship with anyone they meet online.Some respondents chose to identify themselves with each answer; many did not. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are shared below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies', universities', or government agencies' policies or positions.