London, May 24 : Virtual worlds, like BBC's Adventure Rock, are useful tools through which children rehearse what they will do in real life, says a new research.
This study, powered by BBC, also claimed that such virtual worlds are also a "powerful and engaging" alternative to far more passive pursuits like watching TV.
The research was conducted by Professor David Gauntlett and Lizzie Jackson of the University of Westminster, and involved surveys and interviews of children aged 6-12, who were the first to test BBC's Adventure Rock virtual world.
Gauntlett said that the children in the BBC study should have been involved in the early stages only for guiding development and providing feedback.
Adventure Rock virtual world is a themed island built by Belgian game maker Larian for the BBC's CBBC channel.
While a child can explore the world all alone, it makes use of message boards that enables the children to share their findings and also things they make in the various creative studios dotted around the virtual space.
The researchers examined the ways in which the children used the world and asked them for their feedback on both its good and bad aspects.
It was also revealed that the children took up almost eight roles when exploring a virtual world and also made use of all the tools provided to them. While at one time, children were explorers, at others they became social climbers looking for connecting with other players. And there were also those who were keen on finding information about how the workings of the virtual space.
Gauntlett indicated that the online worlds were quite beneficial rehearsal spaces, which allowed kids to try all kinds of things without any fear of the same kind of consequences in the real world.
He gave an example by saying that those children who are trying out Adventure Rock had learned a number of beneficial social skills and also played around with various identities and situations that were not possible in real life.
In his opinion, the best thing that appealed to the children about virtual worlds was that they could get the opportunity to create content such as music, cartoons and video and the tools that measured their standing in the world in comparison to their peers.
"Virtual worlds can be a powerful, engaging and interactive alternative to more passive media," BBC quoted him, as saying.
He also asked BBC and other creators of virtual spaces for children for an earlier involvement of young people.
"They really do have good ideas to contribute and they are very good critical friends," said Gauntlett.