(Disclaimer: I sometimes spend time in apps and on social media that I wouldn’t normally mess with because of this blog. I discuss the activity I’ve had in these apps with my wife and with men that I respect and whose opinion I value. I also take other precautions to maintain accountability for my actions online and offline.)
“IMVU” is number 25 in the iOS App Store Social Media category today. It’s been around for about a year and has grown very quickly. They currently boast over 50 million active users and 10 million unique visitors per month. The app is a reality simulation in which you take on a 3D Avatar and visit chat rooms. In these rooms, you can hang out and chat with other people, interact with the environment, and even make your Avatar do different animations. (Dance, karate kick, or do pushups.)
I downloaded the app, created an avatar, and started chatting to see what it was all about. It didn’t take me long to see pretty much all that was going on. I registered as a 17-year-old female (because that’s what most 34-year-old males on an app like IMVU are going to do) and started building my avatar. I made her look beautiful and thin and busty and have dark skin and light hair and eyes. She was pretty much exactly what you’d expect some creepy dude who was making a female avatar to create. Within seconds I was in my first chat room getting the lay of the land. I noticed that I could move my character around and sit on furniture, interact with items, and even privately message other characters in the room. All I ever said in chat was “Hey everybody.” I got a few hellos back from the ten to fifteen other avatars in the room. There were a few people in a three-way conversation and I just sat and read what they were saying to each other for a while. It all felt a bit creepy so I left and went to another chatroom.
This chat room was called “Pleaser.” (I think they meant pleasure, but teens, amiright?) The room was decorated in all black with red lips chairs and neon signs. I saw people standing around and eventually, the chat started to fill. I can’t repeat the conversation I saw in the “Pleaser” room here but it was what you’d imagine. Then I started to look around the room and saw that the usernames that were having this adult conversation were sitting on a nearby bean bag in a full on make out animation. They moved to the floor and I moved over to the chair. When I sat down, my avatar immediately started making the make our animation to look like it was kissing an invisible partner. That’s when I looked over and saw the young man character sitting in the next chair waving handguns around crazily. He reminded me of Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club. He was waving the weapons with some crazy look on his face until a female avatar came and sat with him and they began a make out session as well. Apparently, all you had to do to spark a make out sesh was sit in this chair and wait for some other rando to join you. I had had enough so I backed out of the app, uninstalled it and started making notes for this post. Needless to say, I’m not going to recommend this app for your teens.
Who is IMVU for?IMVU’s core members are young adults age 18-24, however, many members are older. In fact, 7% are 35+. Individuals must be at least 13 years old to use IMVU. – http://www.imvu.com/about/faq.php
What Parents Should Know
The quote above says it all. This app is intended for adults. The content in the app is designed to lead to adult conversation and exploration. The clothing you can try on and purchase within the app lends itself to adult oriented conversations and the interactions and animations can be sexual or violent in nature. I will never understand how an app that is designed for and rated for ages 17+ can allow members under that age to sign up and use the app. In the 15 minutes I spent in this app I saw nobody over the age of 16 and I was checking the ages over every profile that featured their age. Of course, just because the app says they are 15 doesn’t mean they are but that doesn’t make this better. It makes it worse. Remember, I was a 17-year-old girl while I was checking IMVU out.
This app is being added to our uninstall list. Let’s do a quick recap to help us better understand why. 1. No age verification. You can say your however old or young you want to be. 2. Violent and sexual themes and partial nudity. 3. I saw people (not real people, but still) making out all over the place. 4. The dudes that were waving firearms around like crazy people. 5. Open chat and private chat with who even knows who? These reasons make it very clear to me that if you see IMVU on your young teen or child’s phone you should uninstall it immediately.