2009: Volume 2, Issue 1, pp. 89-106

Socializing Young People to Ethics via Play Experience: 
Browser Games and Parental Concerns for Safety Online

Divina Frau-Meigs
Divina Meigs



This paper considers an online game and its relation to safety and privacy, in order to examine social and ethical issues raised by parental concern over harmful content. To gain real insights on the responsibility of adults, it develops a hands-on approach that takes into account the major stakeholders, especially young people and the related circle of people around them. Therefore the research question that is raised is: how do browser games provide reassurance to parents about their children’s safety and privacy? The issue of safety online is explored in three parts, using an ethnographic research framework: it explores a specific online game, it provides a profile of participants, it analyses their types of actions in relation to safety and privacy, and discusses the results in terms of incidence of risk, peer-monitoring and community control. The findings show that there is a rather strong tendency to self-regulation, but that tendency is partly due to a strong presence of mediating adults and peers. The results are discussed in terms of incidence of risk, peer-monitoring and networked means of control on the one hand, and in terms of scientific contribution to socialization theory on the other hand. They lead to final considerations on the repertoire of ethical strategies set up online and its meaning for the concerns of adults towards online risk as well as the need for policies on regulation and self-regulation. They also lead to extensions on the socialization to norms and the appropriation of ethics by young people.



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